Monday, December 13, 2004

Apologies for the break in transmission

Has it really been over a month! Time flies when you're busy.

I've spent most of the last month or so charging round the region visiting constituency campaign teams, regional conferences, training events etc. Without giving any secrets away I can say that there is a lot of very positive activity across our key seats.

Nationally we are gearing up for the election which is firmly expected in the spring, and at local level our campaigning is really getting going.

There has been a bouyant mood at the various Regional Conferences and training days I have attended. A mixture of celebrating the summer by-election successes and looking forward to the general. It is good to be part of a party that is actually looking forward to the chance to get our message across!

I have managed some time off as well. I went to see the Manic Street Preachers at Wembley last week, which was excellent. I haven't seen them since the early days and they were just as good as ever.

I am currently listening to various CDs by The Wildhearts, Mostly Autumn, Marillion, Queen, Springsteen, Muse, Manics and Suede.

I have been watching the Marbles on the Road DVD from Marillion's tour earlier this year, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (in chunks), and the new Battlestar Gallactica on Sky One. I keep missing The West Wing because it tends to clash with getting the kiddies ready for bed time. Is it me or is this series of Teachers not so good?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Wildhearts Strike Back

For lovers of fast paced but tuneful rock an excellent new live CD from the legendary Wildhearts is available now.

Find out more at:

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Innocent until proven guilty?

This week's barmy Blair idea is that juries should be told about a defendant's previous convictions in certain criminal cases.

This is yet another 'quick fix' attempt to be seen to be doing something about crime, without actually helping the situation one bit.

In any given court case their is either enough evidence to convince a jury that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, or there is not.

The only impact information about previous convictions can have is to persuade a jury that is not convinced on the evidence of the case to find the defendant guilty.

This is likely to lead to the police being even more likely to simply finger convicted criminals known to have committed similar offences and get them into court, safe in the knowledge that they will clock up another conviction.

The aim of the criminal justice system should be to identify, convict and sentence the person guilty of the offence, not just someone who happens to have committed a similar offence previously.

The idea that increasing the chances of wrongful convictions somehow helps the victims of crime is laughable.

There are many things that can be done to improve the way the system works and makes it harder for people to get off on technicalities, but this is not one of them.

John Peel RIP

I was very sad to hear that John Peel had died today.

I have been listening to him for more than 20 years now. I still remember listening to him late at night in my early teens and discovering bands that I probably would never have heard otherwise.

Some of the stuff he played I loved, most of it was awful, but he was excellent throughout.

It is difficult to pin down exactly why so many people loved him, as evidenced by the reactions today. For me it is because listening to his show was rather like being round a mate's house having them play their favorite records to me.

I never got The Fall mind!

John Peel RIP

I was very sad to hear that John Peel had died today.

I have been listening to him for more than 20 years now. I still remember listening to him late at night in my early teens and discovering bands that I probably would never have heard otherwise.

Some of the stuff he played I loved, most of it was awful, but he was excellent throughout.

It is difficult to pin down exactly why so many people loved him, as evidenced by the reactions today. For me it is because listening to his show was rather like being round a mate's house having them play their favorite records to me.

I never got The Fall mind!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Delight and sadness

I suspect many Liberal Democrats will have had mixed feelings yesterday. In one batch of emails came the delightful news that Sarah Kennedy is expecting her first child and the sad news that Conrad Russell has passed away.

I am delighted for Sarah and Charles. I understand that the baby is expected in April, which is interesting timing given the likely general election date. I hope all goes well for them.

I am very sad that we have lost Conrad. I can't claim to have known him personally but I have had several chats with him over the years. He did a visit to support my campaign in Wantage at the last election and I often chatted to him at by-elections and conferences.

He was immensly engaging, very, very clever, very amusing and a true liberal.

My party, and politics in general, will be worse off without him.

Albums worth listening to

I saw this on Steve Guy's blog which he got from doctorvee. (I haven't got as far as working out clever link thingies yet so you can't link to them). But being keen on listening to albums I thought I'd join in anyway:

Copy the list on to your blog, put in bold the ones you have listened to (completely from begining to end) and then add three more albums that you think people should have heard before they turn into their parents - remember, it isn't necessarily your most favourite albums but the ones you think people should listen to... and when we say listen we mean from track one through to the end...If you put a link to your follow-on post in the comments of the site where you found it, the chain will be trackable. You are also allowed to DELETE up to THREE albums on the existing list, if you feel a) that this is an album which should not reasonably be foisted upon anybody, or b) that one Radiohead album is quite enough for one lifetime, thank you.
This is Hardcore - Pulp
Moon Safari - Air
Elastica - Elastica
Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols - Sex Pistols
OK Computer - Radiohead

The Kiss of Morning - Graham Coxon
Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars - David Bowie
The Wall - Pink Floyd
Setting Sons - The Jam

Train a Comin' - Steve Earle
Come From the Shadows - Joan Baez
The River - Bruce Springsteen
The Very Best of Joan Armatrading - Joan Armatrading
What's Going On - Marvin Gaye
Metal Box - Public Image Ltd
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement
Apple Venus Vol. 1 - XTC
Marquee Moon - Televison
Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth
The Joshua Tree - U2
Untitled fourth album - Led Zeppelin

Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morisette

Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
Leige and Leif - Fairport Convention
Afraid of Sunlight - Marillion

I added these last three and would remove:

Confield - Autechre
Ágætis Byrjun - Sigur Rós
Folksinger - Phranc

Saturday, October 09, 2004


At a press conference last night Jack Straw said:

"It's hard to imagine what it must be like to go through so terrible an ordeal.
"But it's even harder to imagine how anyone could inflict such suffering. To kidnap a man, to subject him and his family to the agony of prolonged uncertainty and, then to murder him in this way in inhuman."

This is something we could all sign up to.

But if he really believes it why isn't he saying the same things about the Bush administration - which is treating innocent people in exactly this way - and why is the Blair Government arguing in the courts that it should be entitled to use information extracted by torture in other countries?

Thursday, October 07, 2004


I see pop rock boy band Busted have come out as Conservatives.

This is apparantly on the basis that know that they are earning a bit of money they don't want to spend any more in tax.

Should help the Tories win that all important 6-12 year old girls vote!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Near miss in Hartlepool

Just back from the north east after spending a day with my dad in Redcar.

I'm proud of the Lib Dem team and the campaign they ran. It still strikes me as odd that it is the Lib Dems who are the party making the running in these by-elections. Labour's leaflets. despite seven years in power, largely consisted of attacks on the Lib Dem candidate. The Tory campaign started late and barely existed. Local Labour members were (w)rightly ashamed of their party's campaign.

I am happy to see Labour delude themselves that a 19% swing to the Lib Dems is a victory, although their poor result is nothing compared to the Conservatives falling to fourth.

If the Tories are set for any kind of breakthrough in the General they should be closing on Labour in a by-election in Hartlepool (they did start from second place!) - not cede ground to the Lib Dems. There must be a lot of very glum Tory activists heading for Bournemouth today.

Jody Dunn deserves a huge amount of credit for fighting such an energetic and positive campaign. She was quite clearly the best candidate and remained unflappable until then end, even in the face of the nasty and self-defeating antics of the so-called Fathers4Justice.

Disappointed not to win, but delighted to have helped such an outstanding candidate and to help push the Tories nearer to the dustbin of history where they belong.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hard at Work in Hartlepool

The Lib Dem campaign in Hartlepool continues to build momentum towards polling day on Thursday. We have a big team of people here - a mix of enthusiastic local members and supporters from round the country. The atmosphere is similar to Brent, Leicester and Birmingham and it looks like it could be another close result.

The Lib Dem campaign is significantly stronger than any of the other parties, and a lot more positive than Labour's. The Lib Dem rally last night, featuring Shirley Williams, Charles Kennedy and Jody Dunn was packed out. All spoke well. Shirley Williams was the first politician I ever saw speak, at Stockton in 1986, and it was good to see here on such fine form. Charles spoke well too. He rightly pointed out that if, after seven years of government, we were running the kind of campaign Labour are in Hartlepool, he would be ashamed. Quite right too.

Speaking last, Jody Dunn made a confident and effective speech, focussing on the key issue of the hospital and the impact a victory for the Lib Dems could have. She finished by reminding the audience that they don't have a guarantee that she will be a good MP, but that they will have the chance to boot her out next May if she doesn't keep her promises. This seemed to go down well and there was a standing ovation at the end.

Jody is an extremely impressive candidate, and if she does win I am sure she will make her mark quickly, as Brent East winner Sarah Teather has already done.

It's good to be back in the north east. When I joined the Liberals in Redcar in 1987 I would have been laughed at if I suggested that we would one day be near to winning Hartlepool. But this week we are.

It is going to a busy 48 hours!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Happy Hartlepool

It's good to back in Teesside. Proper beer, proper fish 'n' chips and a proper accent.

It's been a hectic weekend in the by-election HQ with hundreds of helpers each day. There is a really positive atmosphere and Jody Dunn is a first rate candidate.

Just like Hodge Hill and Leicester the Labour campaign has been entirely negative and personal. This just spurs on the Lib Dem activists to work even harder.

We are getting a very positive response. I suspect it will be a close run thing on Thursday.

The only downside is that with conference last week I have hardly seen the kids. Will send them postcrads tomorrow.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

To Hartlepool

Having helped with the Leicester South campaign - where I spent my student years and served my political apprenticeship - I can now have a crack at where I grew up - or next door at least.

I'm off to Hartlepool tomorrow to help our excellent candidate Jody Dunn win another stunning victory for the Liberal Democrats.

Help Beat Howard

Excellent website this

Please visit it and do what you can to help.


All my best intentions of actually blogging from Lib Dem Conference came to nought -just too busy!

The Conference was very positive and it was great to see so many friends from round the country again.

The mood was bouyant but serious. I sense that Lib Dem activists know that we are close to a breakthrough, but that we need to remain focussed on getting our message across, rather than get carried away.

Most of my conference was spent doing the things that don't get onto TV - loads of training sessions and meetings with key seat campaign teams, regional officers and other staff.

It is clear that we are currently doing more effective campaigning in more seats than ever before. In seats ranging from Watford to Folkestone, Maidenhead to Taunton, Westmorland to Cambridge, we have first rate candidates and strong campaign teams working their socks off to win support. And the polls reflect that it is working.

On a personal note it is great to see so many of the people I have campaigned with over the years in student politics and rouns the country, doing so well.

The Sunday Rally, with Chris Rennard, Charles and a host of recent election winners, got conference off to a great start. Hartlepool candidate Jody Dunn won loads of support yestrday. And Charles finisehd things off with a coherent and workmanlike speech today.

The party leaves Bournemouth knowing there is still a lot of work to do - but keen to get on and do it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Leeds Festival 2004

Two weeks after the relative tranquility of the Cropredy Festival it was time for the slightly noisier Carling Leeds Festival.

Leeds is different from Cropredy in a number of ways:

1 There are about three times as many people
2 You can't pitch your tent next to your car
3 I had my eldest daughter with me
4 The average age of the punters is about 30 years younger
5 The noise doesn't stop

Leeds is the sister festival to Reading which I first attended in 1987. It has a big main arena and several other stages - the Radio One stage, the Carling Stage, the Dance Stage and the Comedy Tent.

Being on the elderly side I spent quite a lot of time in the Comedy Tent - which was mostly of a very high standard.

We arrived on the Thursday - along with half the planet - and got our (new,large) tent set up. Having suffered last year due to lack of sleep I did insist, much to daughter's disgust, that we go in the family camping area this year. (This involved several trips to and from the car and a very long queue).

Shortly after the tent was set up it started to rain so we sat in the tent for the rest of the day. Another family set up their (equally large) tent next to ours and we proceeded to get on well with them for the weekend.

Eldest daughter is a particularly keen Green Day fan so she was very excited to be seeing them headline Friday. She spent most of the weekend seeking out punk bands, losing various shoes and items of clothing and generally spending my money for me.

Highlights for me included: Lostprophets, Placebo, Hundred Reasons, The Hives, Ash, A, & Supergrass.

Best set of the weekend for me was the legendary Wildhearts who crammed two hours worth of energy, songs and general mayhem into a 40 minute set. They had a lot of fans there to see them but also attracted a large crowd who they proceeded to win over completely.

And The Darkness were truly brilliant as well. They peformed a real stadium rock set with a solid dollop of humour thrown in. Justin Hawkins is so over the top it is hilarious, but they are very tight musically too. And the fireworks at the end reminded me of Monsters of Rock festivals of old.

As a lifelong Queen fan it was interesting to see Green Day end their set with a cover of We Are The Champions while The Darkness were led by the crowd into performing a chunk of We Will Rock You during their closing number Love On The Rocks (With No Ice).

And having packed the tent into the car during Sunday afternoon it only took 90 minutes to get out of the place in the end. Got home at 4am!

Cropredy 2004

It is slightly disconcerting when the first thing you see at a festival is a sign which says: "Usual campsite flooded - follow signs to new campsite"!

But it didn't turn out too bad, there had been a lot of rain in the two days before the festival but it was brightening up by the time I got there. I was glad I arrived early mind, the queues were massive a few hours later.

Cropredy is the annual 'reunion' festival organised by Fairport Convention, the 37 year old pioneering group of the genre that is known as 'folk-rock'.

This was my third Cropredy and I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere is really friendly and welcoming. Many of the punters have been coming for decades. The age range is wide with quite a few family groups, teenagers, twenty and thirty somethings and right up to pensioners.

The highlight is always the Fairpoirt set on the Saturday night - where many previous members of their often changed line up turn up to join the current line up on stage. The acts are all chosen by Dave Pegg, Fairport's bass player, and always cover a wide range of folk, blues and roots music.

Particular favourites for me this year were Mostly Autumn (a sort of Pink Floydy/All About Eve prog/folk/rock group) who I saw for the first time, and Show of Hands (a folk duo playing traditional sounding and brilliantly delivered songs). The Family Mahone featuring Radio 2 DJ Mark Radcliffe on vocals and drums were very good and very funny too.

The Friday headliners were Jethro Tull who I have wanted to see for about 20 years. The set was excellent and the musicianship superb although the mix left something to be desired as far as Ian Anderson's vocals were concerned.

I really enjoyed the Fairport set this year. There is some doubt about whether the festival will continue after this year because the main organiser of the event has been Christine Pegg, Dave Pegg's wife. Unfortunately they have separated and this throws the future of the event into doubt. There were a few emotonal moments as a result - particularly whne Christine was invited onto stage to take a bow and be presented with a bouquet by Simon Nicol (Fairport vocalist & guitarist).

The Fairport set was fantastic. A wide range of their best known songs from their 37 year history including a stunning version of my personal favourite, The Hiring Fair, and several tracks from the new CD Over The Next Hill. As usual they ended the set with a touching rendition of Meet On The Ledge.

I really hope the festival continues.

Currently listening to ...

... Bruce Dickinson's rock show on Radio 6. Started with Rock 'N' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution by the mighty AC/DC followed by Butterflies and Hurricaines by Muse. Promises much Megadeth later in the show too.

For those who don't know Bruce is lead singer with Iron Maiden, a pretty good Radio DJ and a lover of all things Classic Rock.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004



Still listening to Bruce Dickinson's rock show - a fascinating interview with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and tracks from the new album which sound excellent.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Apologies for the delay

Just as I was getting started with the blog I hit a busy patch with holidays and the like.

I've got a busy weekend too - a 'General Election Summit' with many of the party's MPs, candidates and movers and shakers. The mood in the party is very positive at present so it should be a good event.

Next week is a bit quieter so I hope to post about a few things to catch up including the Cropredy Festival and the Leeds Festival.

Anders Hanson wins the prize for being the first person I know to spot my blog - I don't plan on advertsisig it widely until I have learnt the ropes. When I work out how to do the links and stuff Anders will be top of my list. (Despite our musical differences ;-))

Thursday, August 12, 2004

It's going to be wet ...

Off to Cropredy tomorrow morning for the Festival and it's going to be a wet and muddy. Have bought extra huge groundsheet, large quantity of bin liners and am taking twice as many changes of clothes as usual.

Should be a good one though - Oysterband headlinging tomorrow, Jethro Tull on Friday and FC themselves on Saturday. Supports include Mostly Autumn (who I've heard some excellent material by but not seen live yet), The Family Mahone (featuring Mark Radcliffe), the superb Show of Hands and Nick Harper (son of Roy).

This is usually my one weekend away of the year without the family (other than work stuff) so I am really looking forward to it.

I just hope it doesn't rain too much!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

This week I have mostly been listening to ...

Marbles by Marillion - their brilliant new album which was funded by their fans paying for their CD in advance.

Lots of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull - in preparation for the Cropredy Festival this weekend.


Green Day because my eldest keeps making me listen to it - we will be seeing them at the Leeds Festival.

Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

Welcome my friends ...

I thought I would give this blogging lark a go so welcome to my blog.

My name is Neil Fawcett. I am married with three beautiful children. I am an active Liberal Democrat and County Councillor for Abingdon South on Oxfordshire County Council. I am Executive Member for Learning & Culture on the County.

In my spare time I like listening to music and watching bands. I like most varieties of rock music - Classic Rock, Prog Rock and Folk Rock. I am a big fan of Marillion, The Wildhearts and Fairport Convention.

I expect that most of my postings will be about politics, a fair few about music and occasionally about films, family etc.

Hope this blog turns out to be of some usefulness to some people occasionally!