Friday, October 12, 2007

Rushing about

Struggling to get much done this week after the hectic few weeks we had until Brown bottled it.

The highlight of my week was heading over to Wembley to see the excellent Rush.

I saw them a couple of years ago on their 30th anniversary tour and they were fantastic - playing a 'greatest hits' set.

This time they played a fair few tracks off the new 'Snakes and Arrows' album as well as plenty of old favourites.

So here's some new Rush:

And here's some old stuff too (with Liberals in mind):

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Brixton break from election prep

An evening off last night (which was a shock to the system!) so go and see the mighty Incubus at the delightful Brixton Academy.

Originally planned as a treat for my eldest back in April the gig had been rescheduled following band member being injured.

Support band Puggy did a fine job and picked up a strong reaction. A lively stage prescence and a batch of interesting songs with influences ranging from spanish guitar to Muse, they went down very well with the Incubus crowd.

And Incubus? Well they're not a band I've heard a lot of, although what I had heard I'd liked. I ended up very impressed.

A very strong rock set - quite a range of styles - elements of RHCP, Pearl Jam, Seattle sound but also a number of very straightforward commercial rock songs.

Anyway ... back to the election ... but meanwhile, enjoy:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

31 today!


You Are 31 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Battlestar Gallactica Season 3

I've just finished watching season three of Battlestar Gallactica (BSG) on DVD.

What a fantastic series, and what a great ending to the penultimate season.

BSG is a 'reimagining' of the classic but cheesy late-seventies sci-fi series about a group of human survivors trying to find earth in the face of the genocidal Cylons.

Much of the series tackles contemporary issues such as the use of torture, the tactics of insurgency and the democratic process. It does this by making the humans, with whom the audience tend to identify, into the insurgent terrorists, using tactics such as suicide bombings and torture.

Given that the programme is a US production it is a brave approach.

Along with all the best sci-fi (ie Firefly) the real strength of the series is in the strength of the characters. There is no hero here. All are deeply flawed. But they draw us in all the more for it.

This is a must see series for any sci-fi fan that hasn't caught up with it yet.

Post 200 - Battle Stations ...

As Ryan pointed out a few days ago this blog is one of a small but hardy batch of blogs that existed when Lib Dem Blogs was born three years ago.

Regular readers will know (well when I say 'regular' ...) that posting has always been somewhat sporadic. This is because I only post when I have something to say and time to say it, and, as my friends will know, I often don't have much time.

This is the 200th post. Not bad if you ask me. And comes on what I now think to be a likely general election.

At the moment we don't have an internet connection at home, following the flood, so I've not been posting much because of that. Hopefully I'll find time to post as the election progresses.

I do find that blogging is a good way of getting things of my chest, and sometimes a good way to think through issues and my position on them. It is also a good way to keep in touch with what's going on round the party and with quite a few old friends who blog.

So I intend to keep on blogging, probably sporadically, and within the limits of what a member of party staff can get away with. Do keep in touch.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Day 4 in the Irony Hotel

Temperature - even hotter

Training sessions run - 2

Attendance at them - up but visibly wilitng.

Key seats met with - 3

Dinner with a few colleagues - very pleasant

Meeting up with large group to celebrate Richard Huzzey's birthday - excellent

Strong environment policy to campaign on - passed

Chances of them fixing the air conditioning - apparently slim.

v busy - more later - ttfn

Monday, September 17, 2007

Day 3 in the Quality Hotel

Another training session delivered - this time in the sub-tropical temperature of the Chestnut Room here in my base for conference The Quality Hotel (also known as The Irony). The air conditioning has apparently broken down which means we are training in very warm rooms over very noisy fans. Surprisingy the trainees did not fall asleep despite the heat and the best efforts of the trainers ;-)

Today also included several more meetings with key seats and a useful meeting with Regional Executive members to do some early planning for the South East European election campaign.

This evening I chatted to folk at the East of England and South East/South Central Regional Receptions as well as briefing several of our regional journalists.

Then it was off for a very pleasant curry at River Spice with Steve Goddard, our candidate in the highly marginal Oxford East constituency.

(Apparantly there is a conference centre nearby too!)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Back in Brighton

I'm back in Brighton for Lib Dem Conference.

I enjoyed a lovely dinner last night at The Fisherman's Rest with Chris Rennard (Chief Executive), Hilary Stephenson (Director of Campaigns) and colleagues yesterday evening where we chatted about progress in our key seats and preparations for a possible autumn election.

We then met up for a few drinks with the rest of the Campaigns Department Team at the Grand Hotel.

Mood very positive.

This morning I did the first of several training sessions I will be doing this week - on 'Making the most of VIP visits' with the excellent Dave Hennigan from Rochdale.

This afternoon I will be meeting the teams from some of our London seats and London Campaigns Officer Andrew Reeves to discuss their campaigning and planning for a snap election.

I may even get along to the conference centre at some point, but I suspect most of my week will be spent here in the Quality Hotel.


Go see Atonement.

It features some great footage of the beach I spent much of my childhood making sandcastles on and a couple of scenes shot outside and inside the Regent Cinema where I spent many a happy late Friday evening in my youth.

Aparantly the story and acting is also quite good!

After the flood

The past few months have been a been spent dealing with the aftermath of being flooded.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail but suffice to say that the whole experience is a lot more disruptive than I had ever imagined.

We are now settled in a temporary home not too far from our house and the kids are back into their normal routine.

The insurance company have been as helpful as we could expect although they and all the various contractors involved have clearly struggled to cope with the large number of claims across the country.

The one thing we still haven't sorted out is transfering the TV/phone/internet connection to the new house so internet access has been somewhat limited.

On the positive side it has meant that I've caught up with my DVD viewing and have been enjoying Season 2 of Battlestar Gallactica (Season 3 is now on the way) and the complete set of Tommorrow People DVDs - a series I vaguely remembered from my childhood but which has been a joy to watch with my 9 year old James.

On top of that I went to see The Police last Sunday with Samantha and they were absolutely fantastic.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's a bit wet here ...

I was going to blog about the excellent by-election results (for us anyway!) and the brilliant agents' training weekend we've just had.

But unfortunately we are flooded out, and I spent this morning moving more stuff upstairs, and we are now staying with friends waiting for the next Thames 'surge'.

Ho hum ...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

This news Lit up my evening

Now this is funny.

No wonder Tom Watson was in such a strange mood earlier.

I can just imagine the state of panic in the Tory by-election HQ just now!

Be quick or be dead

Just noticed that they are showing the classic Doctor Who series 'The Deadly Assassin' on UK Drama at 4.25pm.

If you're not currently at a by-election and haven't seen it before I'd strongly recommend it.

Let's break the record folks

At the weekend before the Leicester South and Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election polling day I wrote to Lib Dem activists in London and the South East urging them to come and help in the last few days because we knew we could do it, but we needed enough people to turn up to deliver the (rather ambitious) campaign we had planned.

Hundreds did turn up, and the result was victory in Leicester South and a near miss in Birmingham Hodge Hill.

I think we are in a similar position in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield this weekend.

In Ealing the Tories are putting in a visible effort, just as they did in Leicester, but the Lib Dems are out-campaigning them on the ground. The Labour campaign is surprisingly lacklustre.

In Sedgefield the Tories are doing next to nothing on the ground, and it is pretty clear that the Lib Dems are the challengers. There is a degree of unhappiness that Blair walked away and a general sense that the area has been let down by Labour for many years.

In both by-elections, despite the short notice, the Lib Dems have put together very strong by-election teams, each led by veterans of the Bromley, Dunfermline, Hartlepool, Leicester, Birmingham and Brent East campaigns. Chris Rennard and Hilary Stephenson have been seen regularly at both campaigns along with oodles of MPs.

Both had well organised and busy HQs up and running within days of the elections being called.

Both have had massive support from Lib Dem activists from far and wide.

With just a few days until polling day lets break the record for the biggest turnout ever for our by-election campaigns!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The weekend - my top five

Haven't time to do a detailed posting about my 39th birthday weekend - but this is a truncated version in Top Five format:

5 A surprise birthday curry at Abingdon's finest Dil Raj restaurant on Friday evening.

4 Seeing the mighty Metallica at the new Wembley Stadium with my good friend Brian the Lion.

3 Enjoying some great live music and meeting both Paul Cornell and a Dalek with my younger two at the Faringdon Arts Festival.

2 The Key to Time DVD box set (well, a pre-order, it's not out yet) from Frankie (my eldest - knows her Whovian Dad well!).

1 A glorious bright pink birthday cake - mixed baked and decorated (in that way only an over-excited five year old could manage) by my beautiful youngest daughter, Emma.

And it wil be 39th birthdays for me from now on ...

Don't miss out ... only 8 days left ...

That's right, there are only eight more days in which you can make a difference in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield.

So far the turnout of helpers has been fantastic at both by-elections, but we need even bigger numbers to turn up over the weekend and every day through to polling day.

Hundreds of people will be looking back on these by-elections proudly because they were there.

Don't miss out on your chance to do the same.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Today I have mostly been sending emails to people who have offered to help at the Ealing and/or Sedgefield by-elections.

It has been a very positive experience, everyone from seasoned by-election helpers to new recruits are keen to help, and I know that the teams running both by-election HQs are delighted with the level of help they are getting.

So a big thank you from me to everyone who has been in touch.

If you can go to either by-election in person directions are available on the campaign websites for Ealing and Sedgefield.

You can just turn up - there will be plenty to do every day from now until polling day - and there will be a warm welcome too!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ealing Excitement

Much excitement here at the Ealing Southall HQ over the news that a senior local Conservative has joined the Lib Dems.

Mr Brij Mohan Gupta, Deputy Chair (Political) of Ealing Southall Conservatives and Vice-Chair of Southall Green and Southall Broadway Conservative ward parties, has joined the Liberal Democrats and backed the Liberal Democrat by-election candidate Nigel Bakhai.

He said:

"Under David Cameron the Conservatives have become a party of style over substance. I agree with everything that Quentin Davies said about Mr Cameron.

"This by-election reflects Mr Cameron's contempt for local Conservative members. His spin doctors ignored our wishes and forced the branch to accept someone whose commitment to the party is less than a week old. Almost all local Conservative party members feel like I do."

Lib Dems odds on to win Ealing Southall

Just a bit of fun:

Betfair have opened a market on the Ealing Southall by-election.

At present the Lib Dems are 8/13 on to win the seat.

Labour are current favourites at 1/5 on.

The Tories are languishing at 11/5 against.

(Note: I'm not encouraging anyone to bet - betting is generally a fools' game - it's always the bookies that win!)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Thank you, whoever you are

Just a quick note to say thank you to the many people that have already responded to requests for help in the by-elections.

(And apologies for not being able to send personal replies to everyone individually so far today)

My team is currently working our way through the offers and responding appropriately.

The key message is JUST TURN UP!

Both HQs are open and busy. There is plenty to do at each.

Will their approach work?

It will be interesting to see whether the Tory approach to the Ealing Southall by-election comes through for them.

They have clearly tried to create the impression of a flying start by selecting a candidate very quickly, having Cameron turn up for an early visit, and set up their 'virtual HQ'.

However this approach is already causing them problems.

The quick selection of a candidate who does not live in the borough, has no record of Conservative activism and who has only recently joined the party has caused consternation amongst party activists and has even been described as 'high-risk' by a local Conservative councillor.

Feedback from the campaign on te ground suggests that the Lib Dem approach of getting a substantial HQ up and running quickly and encouraging activists to turn out to deliver and doorknock may be having more impact. Early signs are that the Tory campaign may turn out to be smoke and mirrors.

Find out for yourself by coming along to the HQ and helping out.

Well done Nigel

I am delighted to see that Nigel Bakhai has been chosen as our candidate for the Southall by-election.

I know Nigel from various London training events over the past few years and I know he is very committed to working hard for the community where he lives.

The fact that he is a genuinly local candidate can only help too.

I believe we will also be announcing our candidate for Sedgefield soon. I'm sure it will be reported here.

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.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

From out of nowhere ...

Rumours abound in Oxford political circles that two councillors are about to form a Conservative Group on the City Council. (see here, here and here)

If they do so it will be the first time there has been a Tory group since 1996 when I was fortunate to be the agent for the Lib Dem candidates that booted the last Tories off (other than a very brief period when one was elected by accident in Martson a few years ago).

Having gone 10 years without a group I can understand the Tories' frustration, but I would have thought that putting a bit of effort in to win a seat at an election might be seen as a more popular way of getting some councillors.

Instead they have persuaded the political equivalent of 'hand me downs' to become Conservatives.

Knowing both councillors concerned I will be astounded if they have really become Conservatives.

Knowing a fair few Oxfordshire Conservatives I wonder how pleased they will be with their new recruits.

I do hope they get along ...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Weekly bin collections - A phyrric victory?

Like many other places the local Tories here wer delivering leaflets on polling day which said 'Vote Conservative to save weekly bin collections'.

These may have had more impact if there was the slightest hint that the current Lib Dem administration had any plans to ditch weekly bin collections.

If the Tories have won seats and councils on the back of this campaign I do wonder if it will come back to bite them.

The first council in Oxfordshire to move to fortnightly collections was Tory run Cherwell. It appears to have been popular and has had a positive effcect on recycling rates.

Lib Dem run Oxford has now followed suit and, despite a bit of noise in the local press, the scheme seems to be settling in well and largely popular.

I do wonder how these new Tory administrations are going to manage. They all have tough recycling targets to hit and will pay a steadily rising cost for landfill. They won't be able to aford the extra costs of recycling AND weekely collections of residual rubbish and won't be popular when they have to cut other services as a result.

I hope they thought it through!

My take on the results

The term 'a mixed bag' has been overused but is, I think, a fair summary.

Having helped run a campaign in a council next door to David Cameron's Witney constituency I am now certain that there is no 'Cameron effect', at least not in the way the media usually use the term.

The local elections here were fought on local issues and, despite visits from both Cameron and Campbell during the campaign, national politics didn't feature much.

The result in the Vale mirrors the position in many other Lib Dem held or target seats - consolidation where we already do well and progress where there is still room to make it.

(I was surprised to hear, for example, taht we had gained another three seats in Chris Huhne's Eastleigh constituency, primarily because I hadn't realised that there were still that many seats left for us to gain).

Our big losses appear to have come in councils where there were particularly strong local issues - such as Bournemouth - in constituencies where new Tory MPs are digging in - such as Waverley, Newbury - and in seats where they fought us off hard at the last election - Maidenhead, New Forest.

In most other places it is steady as she goes.

In my view our real challenge is to build sufficient organisation and understanding of modern campaigning in the places we are drifting back. Where we are doing this we are making good progress. There are still far too many local parties who are not doing this.

If there is any 'Cameron effect' it is that more Tory MPs and local parties are refreshing their approach to campaigning and are reaping the rewards from it.

How not to do rebuttal

I always worry when Lib Dems announce that they 'have to' spend the campaigning rebutting what the other side are saying about us.

And this web page from the local Tories just about sums it up.

Once you've read some of the most effective bits of our leaflets and noticed their long and tedious rebuttal in a small typeface alongside it you might find this sentence:

'We do not beleive that it should be the role of the Council to organise activities for young people,'

Now, can you guess what was plastered all over our eve of poll leaflets in the marginal wards?

You guessed it!

And they sum up their whole approach when they say:

'We believe in words not actions.'


So, top tips for Lib Dems:

1 Think before you rebut. Continuing to promote your agreed campaign messages will nearly always be a better use of time and effort than rebutting the opposition.

2 If you are going to do a rebuttal, don't make it obvious that it is a rebuttal. Just state your case on the issue clearly and more effectively.

3 Don't repeat their message for them. So ofen our rebuttal starts by repeating their attack. THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO DO! Don't do it!

4 Pick on one thing they've lied about and attck it hard. It is far easier to convince on one simple fact that in lots of detail.

5 Make your rebuttal shorter and simpler than their attack. Otherwise you won't win the argument.

Progtastic mate

Now that the dust has settled on the elections I am looking forward to catching up with a batch of excellent British (and prog influenced) rock that has been released recently.

The new Marillion album was released a few weeks ago and even hit number 24 on the album chart. Called 'Somewhere Else' it is a very listenable collection of songs highlighting Steve Hogarth's emotional writing and voice and some fantastic guitar playing by Steve Rothery.

The band is currently on tour in Europe and heading for the UK soon. Details here. Tickets are selling fast though, with the Leeds gig, which I am going to, already sold out.

A week later came Fear of a Blank Planet from the mighty Porcupine Tree which aslo charted, at 31.

For those unfamiliar with this band they remind me of the Floyd in overall feel and depressing lyrical content, with a slightly heavier sound. This album's theme is that youngsters nowadays are growing up in a consumerist hell of a world. Cheery stuff!

They have just toured the UK (I missed them due to the elections, grrr) but return for an appearance at the metaltastic Download Festival in June, so I'll see them there.

Finally rock veterans Magnum have released their latest album Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow. This is one of their best, perhaps influenced by doing the anniversary gigs for their classic On A Storyteller's Night album last year.

All three will appeal to any classic rock fans out there.

More Lib Dem councillors than ever in Abingdon

Well we did it.

We gained the three Vale of White Horse DC seats and four Abingdon Town Council seats that slipped our fingers four years ago after the boundary changes.

Abingdon now has 14 out of 14 Vale councillors and 21 out of 21 Town councillors.

We can't claim a record for the clean sweep - we did that in 1999 - but we can claim that we now have a record number of Lib Dem councillors in the town, thanks to the boundary changes four years ago.

In the ward where I live the missus, Samantha Bowring to you, and Beth Fleming, beat two local Tory stalwarts to gain the town's most marginal ward.

The count was hard work but fun. We weren't sure we'd won. We knew we were close but that it would come down to the marginals. The Tories turned up expecting to gain seats in Abingdon and win the Vale.

As the verification started it became clear that we were edging them in the marginal wards and that we were even in contention over in Grove which we weren't expecting.

The Tory faces got longer and longer as it became clear they had lost.

In the end we gained five seats and lost one to them in Kennington.

The final result across the Vale was 34 Lib Dem, 17 Con, not bad for a council we've run for twelve years now.

Good news for Evan Harris - we took 53% of the votes across the Vale wards in his constituency and 51% if you include the Kidlington results.

Not so good news for the Tory leadership on the Vale whose strategy failed completely and a little surprising that Ed Vaizey, Tory MP for Wantage, let seats slip in his patch.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Who

New Doctor Who.

Brilliant new companion.

Rhino-like monsters.

The first hint of a new theme - VOTE SAXON.

'It's bigger on the inside'.

Perfect telly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Robin Hood in Reverse

So Gordon's final flourish is to tax those on below average incomes a bit more in order to tax those on above average incomes a bit less.

After ten years of New Labour we'd expect nothing less!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sign this letter

The Independent is rightly highlighting the appalling treatment of British troops and is promoting a letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to improve the situation.

The paper is asking readers to add their name to the letter which I have just done.

I've commented before on the shameful decision to invade Iraq. But whatever my views on the legitimacy of the conflict itself, I believe we have an absolut duty to do right by the brave men and women who risk their lives in service to their country.

Yet Blair, shamefully, refuses to even meet the families of soldiers who have been killed.
The excellent Marillion have a new album out in April.

This promo has appeared on YouTube and was filmed at the recent Marillion Convention in Holland which I was very lucky to attend.

Congratulations Ed & Dani

Congratulations are due to my colleague and friend Ed Maxfield has a baby Maxfield on the way.

Characteristically his first thought appears to be the cost ;-)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Liam Byrne should be ashamed of himself

This is yet another example of the Government's utterly shameful approach to refugees which involves picking on the vulnerable easy targets while doing f*** all about the real abuse of the system.

Liam Byrne should hang his head in shame as should anyone who still pays a subscripiton to what used to be a party of principle but has now sold them down the river.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My seven top things of 2006

Norfolk Blogger wants to know the seven things that tickled my fancy most in 2006.

I could easily just list seven of the gigs I've been to during the year. For me little beats the excitement and atmosphere of live music.

But I guess Nich is interested in a list of rock bands.

So here goes:

1 More time with the Family. A phrase with connotations for politicians, but I mean it in the positive way it should be meant. As a workaholic by nature I have consciously tried to take more time off to see more of themissus and our three kids. The eldest is not always as keen as she used to be to spend time with her Dad, but the younger two love it.

2 Carry on Camping. As a consequence of 1 I've also had more holidays this year. The best holiday (and the cheapest) was a week's camping at a small family site in Somerset with the younger two. They love camping and we had a great week.

3 For Those About To Rock. An excellent year for rock gigs including the Download Festival headlined by Tool, Metallica and Guns 'N' Roses, Fairport's Cropredy Convention and the returning Monsters of Rock one dayer headlined by the ever brilliant Deep Purple at Milton Keynes Bowl. Other gigs included a fantastic gig by Steve Hogarth on his solo 'h natural' tour, Deep Purple, Porcupine Tree, Muse at Wembley, Iron Maiden at Earls Court and another h gig at Swindon.

4 TV Dinners. There has been a lot of fantastic telly in the last few years - some strong BBC dramas such as Spooks and Life on Mars, the brilliant new Doctor Who and its several spin-offs and the rebirth of American Sci-Fi including Battlestar Gallactica. The onset of digital TV with its tendency for each new show to be given three time slots has made it much easier to follow series properly. (On Demand is even better for this - I'm rewatching series 3 of Spooks while typing this). So after many years on not being able to follow Tv series properly because of working so many evenings I am now able to keep up and, as Christoper Ecclestone's Docor would say - it's Fantastic.

5 Promotion bid. I applied for the vacant Director post in the Campaigns Department and, despite not getting it, found the process of applying, thinking through what I think needs to be done and about what I want to do, very positive. The feedback I received was very positive and I am looking forward to working with Hilary Stephenson who will be a great Director of the Department whilst, I'm sure, keeping her feet firmly on the campaigning ground.

6 Helping Oxford East Lib Dems. Our candidate in Oxford East is Steve Goddard and you couldn't meet a more genuinly decent chap. Steve reduced the majority of the Blairite former cabinet minister Andrew Smith from more than 10,000 to less than 1,000 votes at the last election. Steve was reselected early in the year and it has been a pleasure working with him to build up the campaign team and win excellent results in the City Council elections. We've just appointed a new team of staff to support local campaigning so we'll have capacity to do even more next year.

7 Book ends. I spend a lot of time on trains and I try and spend as much of it as possible reading books. This year I re-read a large chunk of the Virgin Doctor Who New Adventures series - the books that were published after the good Doctor left our TV screens for a few years - along with books five and six in Stephen King's Dark Tower series and the hilarious Husbands by my good friend from University days, Adele Parks. I also spent a lot of time reading various Dr Seuess and Enid Blyton books to the kids along with the genuinly funny Horrid Henry books. I also read a few of the new Doctor Who books to Jimmy.

So that's it. Except for the films which came eighth. And the blogging.

Looking at the list I probably ought to take up some less sedentary hobbies.

I hope Nich finds this interesting ;-)

Dishonourable honour

It is utterly astounding that John Scarlett, the author of the 'dodgy dossier' that has led to so much death and destruction in Iraq, has received an honour.

I've always been uncomfortable with the idea that senior civil servants are given honours purely for having done their job for many years, while everyone else has to do something over and above the call of duty.

But the idea that someone is honoured who has clearly failed in the single most important task of their career makes a mockery of the whole system.

Every single person who has served in Iraq has a stronger claim on an honour than John Scarlett.