Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Marching towards the sound of gunfire ...

Ming Campbell's speech will be widely welcomed within the party and by our supporters.

During the past few weeks we have been courted by David Cameron over the London Mayoral election and last week by Gordon Brown as he sets out to attempt to show that he is different to Blair. Ming Campbell rightly rejected both approaches.

Today Ming set out a clear position for the Liberal Democrats as a radical opposition to the increasingly indistinguishable Lab/Con old pals act.

He also set out clear policy reasons why we need to campaign as a strong and independent party.

Iraq, civil liberties, tuition fees - all issues that have seen Tory and Labour MPs agreeing with each other while the Lib Dems have provided the only coherent opposition.

The fact that a Tory MP like Quentin Davies can choose today to defect to Labour says everything about how close the other two parties have become.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Guardian Tripe

I stopped taking the Guardian many years ago, and the Observer some years later.

While my political views are generally on the progressive left I got utterly fed up with the paper's ability to agree with pretty much every position the Lib Dems took, but then belittle us anyway.

Today has seen yet another example of their willingness to cause trouble for the Lib Dems.

First they run a story on their website with a headline that suggests that Ming Campbell is about to jump into bed with Gordon Brown.

When you read the detail of the story you find out that a) Campbell has said nothing of the sort and b) it is all based on the usual unnamed sources anyway.

They have now put up a follow up story headlined "Campbell rules out Lib Dems serving in Brown cabinet" - fair enough - but includes the astonishing line: "But Sir Menzies was today forced to admit: "There is no prospect of any Liberal Democrat joining the government."

"Forced to admit"! He wasn't 'forced' to 'admit' anything. He simply made clear that the earlier Guardian headline was utter tripe.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blink and you'll miss it ...

After spending the weekend at the Download Festival and most of the week on a (top secret - all will be revealed in a week or so's time) Lib Dem project I finally got round to see last Saturday's episode of Doctor Who last night.

And what a blinder!

Blink was the strongest story of the season so far - and as with all the best scary TV - it was good because of what you didn't see. The general feel reminded me of the classic darker Tom Baker era stories.

If you didn't catch it it is still available on the catch up service on Virgin and I would strongly recomend it.

This weeks Doctor Who Confidential was also very good. Unlike the episode itself it was fronted by David Tennant who looked at how Doctor Who has inspired a whole generation of today's TV Writers and Producers. Tennant is something of a fanboy himself and he was clearly enjoying himself.

And for anyone who enjoyed the previous story - Human Nature - the ebook version of Paul Cornell's original book is back up on the BBC website here and is well worth a read.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Marillion to go top ten again?

My favorite band are Marillion. I've mentioned this before.

Once stereotyped as 'that scottish heavy metal band' they nowadays produce crafted contemporary rock music and deliver it with panache.

I popped up to Leeds to see them at the start of their current tour which finishes with a gig in Cambridge tomorrow and two dates at the Forum in London on Friday and Saturday (which I can't attend due to a work commitment).

If you like quality rock played with real emotion by top quality musicians I would get yourself along to see them. There are still a few tickets left for Friday.

Tickets here.

The band have also just released their new single - Thank You, Whoever You Are - and I predict it will be another top ten hit for them.

Enjoy ...

The DVD version of the single also includes a blinding cover of Britney Spears' Toxic!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A weekend of Downloading

I spent the weekend listening to VERY LOUD rock music at the excellent Download festival which takes place at heavy metal's spiritual home, Donington.

21 years ago I attended my first 'Monsters of Rock' festival at Donington which was headlined by the hilarious Ozzy Osborne (back when he was a little more coherent than he is now) supported by the very boring Scorpions, the excellent Motorhead and the very funny Bad News.

Amongst my teenage mates at the time going to Donington was something of a rock pilgramage - a rockramage if you will - a rite of passage for any self-respecting, spotty, lanky (it's true!), long-haired denim wearing metal fan.

Monsters of Rock had started in 1980 as a one day heavy rock festival - something of a novelty at the time - headlined by Rainbow.

Headliners after Rainbow included AC/DC (3 times), Whitesnake (twice), Status Quo, ZZ Top, Iron Maiden (twice) and Bon Jovi.

The event ran most years through to the mid-nineties (there as a tragic event in '88 when two lads died after being trampled by the crowd - I still remember being shocked when I heard about it on the way home from the event) but fizzled out as rock audiences wained.

Ozzfest - the Ozzy/Sabbath run festival - ran in '98 and then in 2003 the brand spanking new Download Festival arrived - a two day rock and metal fest headlined by Iron Maiden and Audioslave. (And with a rather smashing surpise set from Metallica on the second stage too).

After two years Download turned into a three day event covering the whole range of hard rock and metal.

This year's event was the best yet. Attracting 80,000 fans the three headliners - My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park and Iron Maiden - played first rate sets.

I particularly enjoyed the sets by prog rockers Porcupine Tree and prog metallers (and incredible musicians) Dream Theater.

European rock was well represented and the set by dutch goth metalers Within Temptation, despite being sadly short due to technical problems, was excellent.

One of the best received sets of the weekend was by Velvet Revolver - a rock supergroup made up of three ex-members of Guns 'N' Roses including the amazing Slash on guitar and former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland. Their set included two G'N'R classics - It's So Easy and Mr Brownstone.

It's all quite different from my first Donington - six bands on one stage back then - more than a hundred acts on three stages over three days now. The sound quality is much better, back in the eighties you hoped it wouldn't be too windy because of what it did to the sound. Nowadays the third stage is probably louder than the main stage was back then.

And even the quieter of the bands now play a lot faster and louder than the heaviest ever did then. Back in '86 so called 'Thrash metal' (Metallica had debuted the year before to general disinterest) was brand new. Nowadays nearly every metal band have built on it.

What hasn't changed is that the festival is still mostly filled by teenagers on their rock pilgramage to Donington. Of course back in the day there was no internet forum to discuss the event with for the other 51 weeks of the year ...

One rule for them ...

Once again the Government that promised an 'ethical foreign policy' is in hot water, this time because of the Al Yamamah affair.

I was listening to a discussion about this on the Today programme on Saturday morning between a recent ex-diplomat and Craig Murray.

The recent ex-diplomat argued that the Government's aim should be to decide what is in the 'national interest' and act accordingly. He believed that the damage to our relations with Saudi Arabia, in particualr the possible loss of their cooperation in fighting terrorism, meant it was reasonable for the Government to cover up the bribery.

Craig Murray made a far more convincing case - that our long term interests can only be served by operating within the law - and that our failure to do so means a) giving ammunition to terrorists and b) means we have no leg to stand on when criticising anyone else.

The recent ex diplomat was left trying to argue, rather unconvincingly, that we should be against bribery and corruption in Africa but allow it to carry on in the Middle East.

It seems pretty obvious to me that we can never expect other countries to obey the rule of law if we aren't willing to oursleves.