Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa Claus is Coming to Town ...

Jonathan over at Liberal England has already wished us a merry christmas with one of my favourite christmas songs - Solstice Bells by Jethro Tull - whose folksy sound is somehow appropriate at this time of year.

For anyone else still up waiting for children to settle down so that they can perform their Santa duties, here's another of my favourites:

Christmas Eve at the Fawcetts'

This was what happened when the sherry drinking got out of hand ...


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Will the real David Cameron please step forward

'Dave' seems a might confused.

Writing in The Daily Mail on December 8th he said:

"Work gives life shape. It gives people esteem and responsibility. It powers our economy. So we’re going to end the something-for-nothing culture. If you don’t take a reasonable offer of a job, you will lose benefits. No ifs, no buts."

But speaking earlier he said that it was 'not right' for the government to expect the mothers of pre-school children to be forced into work.

That sounds like quite a big 'but' to me.

Of course the more important point is that forcing single mothers of pre-school or primary school aged children into work by threatening to take their benefits away will do little to 'heal our broken society'.

Treating people with a bit of dignity might be a good start though.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Neil Trafford's Memorial Service

A series of videos of the Memorial Service which was held in Manchester on Friday is now up on You Tube here.

It is very moving and a wonderful tribute to Neil.

And these people think they can run the country?

For most of the 20 years I've been involved in politics I have never been able to work out how the party that has generally been the worse at managing its own budget seemed to believe itself best able to manage the economy.

Now it seems that despite having been doing better in the polls for many years, they have still managed to make a balls up of their own finances.

Conservative Home has the full story.

I particularly enjoyed this comment:

"The Board of the Conservative Party needs to start acting like a Board, not like (as former Australian Labor leader Mark Latham once said) a conga line of suckholes."

Hat tip: Lib Dem Voice

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sod politics, here' some rock n roll ...

The last fortnight for me has been dominated by the sad loss of a friend and colleague.

Politics by doom and gloom of various kinds.

But I spent Friday wondering if I was in the mood to go and see The Wildhearts who were playing at the Oxford Academy (or The Zodiac, as I like to think of it).

Well I did go, anf boy I'm glad I did.

The reformed A, with new addition John Mitchell on bass, were as superb as ever.

And the mighty Wildhearts were sensational.

They played a set chock full of their best live songs from across their career, starting with the more recent hit Vanilla Radio and ending with their classic mid nineties chart botherer, I Wanna Go Where The People Go.

The place was a sweatbox by the end of the gig and I felt a heck of a lot better for the experience.

If you like lively, loud rock you will love the Wildhearts.

There's still time to catch them at Wolverhampton tomorrow and in London on Wednesday.

In the meatime, here's one to liven up your Sunday evening:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Saying Good-bye to Neil Trafford

It is now eight days since I was told that Neil Trafford had died, and to be honest, I'm still struggling with the news.

I have made a few comments in other places but have found it quite difficult to write a full post.

I think I first met Neil in about 1994 when he was getting involved in the Lib Dem Youth & Students, who I then worked for. I have known him ever since as he worked in his various roles in the party and particularly these last few years as he worked as North West Campaigns Officer.

I can't really add much to what has already been said about Neil except to add my name to the long list of people who are proud to have counted him as a friend.

Neil's funeral was held yesterday in Swindon at Swindon Evangelical Church where Neil was and his family are members.

It was a bright sunny afternoon, just as it should be for Neil, and the Church was full.

Neil's parents, Mark and Lynne, spoke very movingly about Neil. They clearly loved him very much and were very proud of him. His father said that they had received many letters and phone calls and had seen the various comments posted about Neil online.

They spoke with great dignity, courage and compassion.

Hannah Trafford read from John 14.

Neil's close friend Emily also spoke about Neil, what a great friend he was, how much fun he was and how much he cared for everyone.

Neil's Pastor, Paul Williams, spoke about Neil and his memories of Neil's lobbying for a more democratic and inclusive church!

The hymns were some of Neil's favourites, Lord Be my Vision, My Jesus My Saviour, Great is the Lord and The Lords My Shepherd.

The service finished with a recording of 'Run' sung by Hannah Trafford, which beautifully sung and very moving.

The service was followed by a reception at a local hotel.

A lot of Neil's family and friends were there, along with many of us from the party. Several of the party's MPs were present, along with party staff, local members from the Swindon area and lots from Manchester.

I never find funerals easy, but it was good to see so many people that Neil had touched during his far too short but incredibly positive life.

If anyone would like to make a donation in Neil's memory please do so to the TEAR Fund - - a charity that Neil supported himself.

Good-bye Neil, and thanks for being you.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Doctor Who 45th Anniversary – Why Was 1977 Brilliant?

Alex - hope it's not too serious and you get well soon.

I was looking forward to your take on 1977 so I hope you don't mind if I put my two-penneth in;-)

1977 was a simply fantastic year of Who.

To this then eight/nine year old boy it was compulsive viewing and much playground talk each week would be about the previous Saturday's episode and the one coming up.

Having said goodbye to Sarah Jane Smith at the end of 1976 and seen off the Master, January 1977 saw the arrival of the lovely Leela. This scantily clad 'savage' was something of a contrast with previous well turned out companions but made for a great double-act with Tom Baker's Doctor.

The show was in good hands with Producer Philip Hinchcliffe and Script Editor Robert Holmes taking the series in a more gothic direction. Storylines and scripts were strong - it doesn't get much better than Robots of Death, Talons of Weng Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock one after the other. I can still remember the drama of every one of these stories. It was during this period that Mary Whitehouse's criticism of the show was at its most strident - clear evidence that the show was doing well!

The scripts did not lose their humour, however, and Leela, in particular, had some great one liners.

My favourite, in The Face of Evil (I think):

The Doctor : "Would you like a Jelly Baby?"
Leela : "It's true then. They say the Evil One eats babies."

What to watch:

I'd recommend getting the DVD of The Talons of Weng Chiang. A strong story and script, and if, like me, you've got kids who love the new series, they'll love this one too. (And it's cheap on Amazon at the moment too).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Olbermeister does it again

I was delighted to read that Keith Olbermann's contract with MSNBC has been renewed for another cycle.

MSNBC in general, and Keith Olbermann specifically, have had a real impact during the last few years in rebalancing US news following an unhappy period when FOX dominated the airwaves.

Keith's best moments have been his Special Comments - hard-hitting straight to camera statements on issues of the day. On several occaisions he has taken Bush to pieces, and this time he has nailed those who support the ban on gay marriage in California and other states.

It's very emotional, very strong and very clear, and answers anyone who doesn't beleive there are real liberals in the US:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

History is made

Well he's done it!

Possibly the most historic US Presidential result of all time, and he'll take office almost exactly 100 years after the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

This could radically change the perception of race across the US and of the US across the globe.

Let's hope so.

In the meantime, another beer, in celebration ;-)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How long would you wait in line to vote?

It seems pretty bizarre to me that the wealthiest country in the world doesn't seem able to organise itself to run an election properly - but such is the enthusiam generated by the campaign this time that it doesn't seem to be stopping folk from voting.

The Obama campaign have done a terrific job of making his supporters want to get out and vote for him, as the polling of early voters shows.

Such is the enthusiasm that 1,000 students in Pennsilvania were queuing up at 7am this morning ready to vote!

CNN's Jack Cafferty asked viewers how long they would stand in line to vote and I found the responses quite inspiring.

Amongst my favorites were:

Michelle from New Hampshire:

I am prepared and willing to wait all day. I have cleared my calendar to make sure I can spend the whole day. And the time I don’t spend waiting or voting, I will spend poll watching and holding signs. This is far too important not to make a personal sacrifice to make sure my vote counts. And, as an Army wife, one day of work loss is meaningless compared to the days my husband has and will spend on deployment. To all within the sound of your voice: Get out and vote!

LaShunda from Mobile, Alabama:

I am seven months pregnant and standing for long periods of time hurts my back tremendously, but in spite of my pain I plan on standing in line as long as it takes to exercise my right to vote, especially when those before me endured even greater hardships to have this right.

Joe St Louis, MO:

I have been waiting 8 years to vote…….

And this comment from a Candian reflects my own view:

Marie, Ontario:

Well Jack I’ve been voting here in Canada for over 40 years and can’t remember more than a half dozen people being in front of me in a line to vote.

This makes me wonder how a country that can send a man to the moon can’t organize and run elections without having so much turmoil and such lengthy delays at the polls.

Anyway to answer your question if I was an American I would wait all day and half the night to cast my vote for Obama as I feel it is just that important.

Well it rained, and it hailed, and it was freezing and windy but ...

Well we're now back from Cornwall after a largely cold, wet and windy week.

We were staying just on the edge of Bodmin Moor but because of the weather didn't get the chance for any proper walks there.

But despite the weather we had a great time.

Amongst other things we visited the lovely Tintagel and its castle, the Arthurian Centre near Camelford, Bodmin, the Eden Project, Padstow, the famous Jamaica Inn, Landhydrock House, Flambards Experience (the wettest and clodest visit to a theme park ever but with a fantastic end of season fireworks display), Healey's Cyder Farm, Futureworld, Lizard Point and Westward Ho!.

We also happened upon a very friendly Post Office in a lovely village called St Brewards which also has an internet cafe and hosts several other village activities - do visit it if you're in the area - they do a lovely mocha. (There is a lively campaign to 'save the Post Office' even though it isn't currently on the threatened list).

Everywhere we went we got an exceptionally friendly welcome and all the places we visisted were well geared up for children.

We rounded the week off with a fancy dress halloween party at Michaelstow Manor Holiday Park where we were staying.

We now have a list of just as many other places to visit that we couldn't get to this time and are planning to head back as soon as we can.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A new suite arrives & Heading for Cornwall for half term

Well, just one year, three months and a week after being flooded our new suite has arrived.

This was the last big thing we were waiting for to get our house back in order.

There is only a bit of 'snagging' left to sort out now.

Anyway to celebrate we're off to Cornwall at the weekend for half term.

We are staying near Bodmin (which I think must be in my former colleague Dan Rogerson's constituency?) and we're hoping that the weather won't be too bad.

Anyone got any ideas for good family things to do - our youngsters are 10 and 6.

(Yes - we already know about the Eden Project!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

$150 million in September

Exciting news for the ground-breaking Obama campaign that they have raised more than $150 million during September.

Even more impressively they received donations from more than 632,000 new donors and nowhave more than 3.1 million donors altogether who have given an average of $86.

This is very impressive on several fronts:

It once again demonstrates that Obama is creating genuine mass enthusiasm across the US.

It shows that it is possible to outraise the GOP's big donors and special interests by getting a large number of small donations.

And finally it means that Obama is going to be able to continue to out advertise and out organise McCain from now on in.

Are there lessons here for the Lib Dems? Yes - although we shouldn't pretend that it will be easy or that everything that works in the US will work here.

But it does reinforce what we already knew (and what a few of our seats alreay do) - money is out there if you can identify the right people to ask, put a convincing case that their donation will make a difference and demonstarte that you are spending money effectively.

One of the Local Parties I work for has a regular income (ie from Standing Orders) of nearly £3K per month now - enough to cover all the regular costs. 100% of anything else we raise from events, appeals etc. pays for extra campaigning.

All it has taken to achieve that - and there is still a lot of untapped potential - is to ask the right people in the right way and to build up over time.

Obama really is a fantastic speaker (and a personal link)

Surfing various American websites I realised that an Obama rally was about to be shown live which I am now watching.

He is speaking to a massive crowd in Kansas City, Missouri, and, after a relaxed start about the local sports teams, he is now in full flow on health care and the economy.

He has just been talking about health and his mother. I hadn't picked up that she had died of Ovarian Cancer at the age of 53, a year before my own Mum died of the same illness at the same age.

I am struck by the conviction with which Obama speaks, and the ease with which he mixes his personal story, real life examples, policy, philosophy and political rhetoric.

He has just built to a crescendo and finished and crowd has gone wild - rock start style.

He really is a fantastic speaker and is clearly attracting massive crowds, even in places the Democrats wouldn't have dreamt of winning just a year ago.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thank You South Central

I spent today at South Central Conference in the excellent Town Council run Oakwood Centre in the middle of Woodley.

The Conference was buzzing and was the usual mix of debates, speeches, training, fringe and exhibition.

As ever it was full of familiar faces as well as some new ones.

The turnout was high - presumably because Nick Clegg was going to speak at the end of the afternoon. When he spoke many of us had to watch his speech on the screen in the cafe as the auditorium was full.

I was there to do two briefing sessions on plans for the European Campaign as well as to do ten minutes promoting Nick Clegg's Million Door Challenge in the main hall.

I was somewhat taken aback when, having done my presentation I was asked to 'hang on a minute' and was presented with a very amusing 'Focus on Fawcett' (featuring a set of those embarrasing photos that usually turn up on your wedding day) and a rather nifty HMV voucher along with some kind words from Regional Chair Steve Sollit about my work for the Region for the past ten years.

I was a little stunned and gabbled out a few words of thanks which I hope made some sense to the audience.

It has been a great ten years working in the region (which used to be Hampshire and Chilterns) and working with so many activists, many of whom I now consider friends, and it was with some sadness that I decided to drop back to a more local and less stressful role.

But I am very appreciative for the gifts, and for all the kind words I received from so many people today.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Watford voters tell the Tories what they think of them

Voters in Watford's Tudor ward have today made it very clear what they think of Watford Conseravtives' 'it was nothing to do with us guv' stance on the Ian Oakley affair.

Excellent Lib Dem candidate Darren Walford held the seat with 50% of the votes cast while the Tory share plummeted by more than 12%.

The icing on the cake was that the BNP trailed in fifth place.

Given that the Lib Dems hold the vast majority of seats on the council, along with the Mayoralty, an increase in their share of the vote in a by-election held in difficult circumstances is a terrific result for the party.

And despite the fact that the by-election took place just days after former Tory candidate Ian Oakley was sentenced for his nasty and anti-democratic campaign of intimidation, the local Tories were still cuaght out telling outright lies on their leaflets and had to issue an apology and retraction yesterday.

At least it is clear that a good chunk of their (former) voters have some sense of decency even if the local Tory Party continues to refuse to apologise or look into what happened.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is the credit crunch over?

Good News!

Just received a very reassuring email from the Halifax which tells me 'Your Halifax Credit Card is always there when you need it'.

So that's okay then, panic over.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cameron = hypocrite, Watford Tories = shameful

As Sara reports, more evidence that David Cameron is a hypocrite.

Several of my good friends in Watford, and many others besides, have been subjected to a nasty campaign of hate and intimidation for the past three and a half years.

Their crime?

Showing their support for or standing for the Lib Dems.

This campaign was not just a bit of argy-bargy, it was serious, planned and sustained criminal damage, defamation and intimidation.

It was a deliberate attempt on the part of a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate to win election by means of intimidation and hate rather than by democratic means.

The court has rightly passed a serious sentence.

You might think, in the circumstances, that David Cameron might want to find out how this had come about and what the Tory Party could do to stop it happening again?

But no, not a peep from the man.

You might think that the local Tories might release some statement of apology, or tell us how Oakley got away with it for so long?

But no, not a single word of regret or explanation.

Watford Lib Dems have not only put up with the intimidation, but carried on working hard for the local community through it all.

They are an example to us.

You can help them though.

They are fighting a key local by-election this Thursday.

Please contact their office on 01923 238552 or the local party Chairman, Stephen Giles-Medhurst on 01923 893661 if you can help in any way.

Let's prove that democratic campaigning is the way to win, not criminal damage and intimidation, and send a clear message to cameron & co that their hypocrisy has been noted.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"They're like, 'Who's Springsteen?' "

Being a bit of a fan of The Boss I much enjoyed reading this account of the first of three rallies he is holding for Obama.

I tend to agree with Daniel Pearlman (quoted towards the end of the article) that Thunder Road is just about the best song ever. (Well that, Atlantic City, Born to Run and The River)

But I really was amused at the idea that some youngsters were bribed to attend a Springsteen gig on the promise that they might get to see Obama!

Given that it's unlikey that we'll see the great man doing a benefit gig for the Lib Dems in the near future, here's something to console you:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A fantastic speech

I saw this on a diary on Daily Kos and thought it a very powerful speech.

It says a lot about US politics that such a speech has to be made. But he makes it exceptionally well.

Why I'm 4 Ros

One of the quite reasonable limitations on federal party staff is that we are not allowed to publicly endorse candidates in internal party elections.

This can be frustrating. I had a firm preference in each of the leadership elections that took place during the ten years I worked for the Campaigns Department but had to be careful not to say anything publicly about it.

But now I'm free, and just as the party's Presidential election has kicked off.

I am firmly of the view that Ros Scott is the best person to be our new President.

Here's why:

1 Ros has set out a very clear view of how she sees the role of President and I think she has got it broadly right. Under our constitution the President should play an important role: representing the views and mood of the party to the leadership, chairing the Federal Executive and getting out and about supporting and enthusing the troops. I think Ros understands this and will be better able to fulfil all aspects of the role and balance them well.

2 Ros has very broad experience at many levels in the party and outside it. In particular she is a genuine listener and has a good understanding of our local government base. I beleive it is more important than ever that this and other parts of the party are represented effectively.

3 Ros has put more thought and effort into preparing for the campaign and working out her ideas.

4 Ros is not an MP. On its own this wouldn't necessarily swing my vote, but along with the other factors it is important. I believe we will be better served by someone outside the commons parliamentary party having the role than someone inside. Groupthink is a very powerful force and my preference is to have a President who is less likely to affected by the groupthink that sometimes affects the thinking of our parliamentary party and the leadership.

Those are my main reasons for supporting Ros.

And Lembit?

Well I have a lot of time for Lembit. I've known him since my first NUS Conference (many years ago!) where he was sitting as an Independent member of the NUS NEC. He was already popular and an excellent and enjoyable speaker.

He has worked solidly hard for the party since he joined it 20 years ago and is one of the few MPs who has taken membership activity seriously in that time.

He also understands the need for the party to connect with ordinary people.


I do not subscribe to the view that all publicity is good publicity and think there is a significant risk that if Lembit were to become President there might be a lot of publicity generated but it would be about him and his personal life and would not do anything to promote the party's values or policies.

I also think that the most important role of the new President will be as a refelctor of the views of members to the leadership. In my experience Lembit would be less good than Ros in this crucial role.

Finally Lembit does have many strengths and is a positive force for the party, but we will get those benefits whether or not he is President.

So I'm 4 Ros, but won't be hugely upset if Lembit wins.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is this the way all bands will go?

More and more bands seem to be ditching traditional record company deals to go their own way.

Bands such as Fairport Convention and The Levellers run their own annual festival and even smaller events such as our local Truck Festival (also run by a local band) have developed strong reputations.

And bands are increasingly using the internet to provide a platform for their music and selling directly to their fans, cutting out the various middle men along the way.

Radiohead hit the headlines recently for giving away their new album as a download, asking fans to pay what they wanted. They apparantly averraged 'only' £2 per album in return, although as has been pointed out this is actually MORE than most bands will get for selling an album through a recording contract.

One band that has consistently blazed a trail of innovation is one of my favorites - Marillion.

Having ended their relationship with EMI after their 80s glory days the band went through a succession of contracts with smaller labels before deciding to go it alone.

They steadily built up an email list and website, set up their own studio and record company (initially releasing 'official bootlegs' and the like) and employed their own manager (the indefatigable Lucy Jordache).

They established their own 'Marillion weekends' - the first of which was at Brean Sands Holiday Park in Somerset. They are holding two next year - one in Holland and one in Canada.

For 2001's Anoraknophobia they asked fans to pay upfront for a special edition of the album. 12,000 of us did so and in the process provided the band with an 'advance' that allowed them the artistic freedom to do what they wanted with the album without any record company execs breating down their throat.

They repeated the excercise with 2004's Marbles and this time 18,000 of us paid up front for what turned out to be a classic.

As the Beeb have reported they are trying even more new ideas for the new album.

They are distributing their own advance bootleg of the new album in an attempt to beat the file sharers. It's free, but not as good quality, and encourages you to buy the real thing.

They've once again asked fans to buy in advance, and we've done so in our thousands.

And they've set up a competition to ask fans to produce their own videos for the track 'Whatever Is Wrong With You' with two £5,000 prizes for the most viewed and the band's own favorite.

This is my favorite so far:

There's a short video about all this here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

They do this so much better than we do ...

Paul Walter is full of praise for Bill Clinton's speech to the DNC.

I watched the introduction Beau Biden made before his father's speech and found it utterly compelling.

Their Conventions really are a very different beast compared to our conferences!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Off to get wet and muddy ...

I'm taking James off to the Cropredy Festival tomorrow and the forecast looks a bit wet.

Unfortunately we missed Cropredy last year - Fairport's 40th - in the aftermath of the floods.

It's a great line up this year with The Levellers and Supergrass headlining along with Fairport - excellent festival bands all.

The Family Mahone and Stackridge should provide a bit of light relief and there is also a performace of the folk-opera version of Lark Rise to Candleford.

The least Cropredyish act is probably Midge Ure.

For those of you not able to join us here's a taste of what you'll be missing:

Monday, July 07, 2008

A quiet 40th

Being 40 years and day old doesn't feel that much different to being 39 years and 364 days old.

I did have a nice birthday though: Breakfast in bed cooked by the youngsters, some DVD sets as presents (The Sharpe Collection and the first series of Starsky & Hutch), a lovely curry at Abingdon's excellent Dil Raj for lunch, off to the pictures to see the new Narnia film, and then home for the final episode of Doctor Who.

Life is good.

Up the Irons!

Iron Maiden were utterly fantastic at Twickenham on Saturday.

Their only UK date on their 'Somewhere Back in Time' world tour played to a full house, and their biggest ever UK audience for a Maiden tour date. (Although I think they played to a bigger audience at one of the Monster's of Rock Festivals I saw them at.)

Their setlist was picked from their eighties albums and included their epic take on 'The Rime of the Ancient mariner' amongst other tracks.

Maiden seem to be more popular worldwide than ever and, along with Metallica, have the ability to sell out stadiums on every continent. For the last few years they have been alternating between touring each new album and 'greatest hits' tours, which works pretty well.

Here's a bit of footage from someone's mobile phone. From the angle I must have been about 20 yards to their right:

Avenged Sevenfold and Within Temptation were also very good.

Thank you RTD

Some people really are very obsessed with Doctor Who. One is dear Lawrence Miles who writes very long and sometimes interesting things about the programme on his Doctor Who Blog.

My take on the new Who is that that Russell T Davies (RTD) has done an absolutely fantastic job. My test for this is that my youngsters are just as excited about watching the show each Saturday as I was when i was their age.

We went out for a curry for my birthday yesterday and Emma, my six year old, was telling me how she wanted her bedroom door to be painted like a TARDIS door, Doctor Who curtains, Doctor Who carpet, Doctor Who lightshade ..... you get the picture.

Both my youngsters spend each episode on the edge of their seats (with Emma occasionally hiding behind daddy in the scary bits).

The last few episodes have pulled together many strands that were left floating during the past four series and, in my view, did it well.

Trying to bring back so many previous companions could have been disastrous (The Five Doctors springs to mind) but generally worked well, and helped rather than hindered the plot.

Davros was brilliant and the Daleks back on frightening form.

And the ending(s) were great. Another goodbye to Sarah Jane Smith, still touching but a little more relaxed, Captain Jack leading Martha off to another series of Torchwood presumably, and Mickey coming along for the ride. Rose finally getting her man, and a very poignant end to the Doctor's relationship with Donna (and a critic defying performance from Catherine Tate.)

Bringing back Doctor Who could have gone very badly wrong. But RTD - primarily through his own skill, imagination and determination - has made the hit TV Series of my childhood into the biggest TV series of my children's childhood too.

RTD - I salute you!

P.S. My 3 point response to Lawrence Miles' '25 Ways to make Doctor Who more interesting' is:

1 Get writers who know the difference between 'less' and 'fewer'.

2 Trust Stephen Moffat to know what he's doing and let him lead the show his way as RTD did his.

3 Er ... that's it ...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Iron Maiden, Dr Who and being 40

I'm very excited about seeing Iron Maiden tomorrow. I think it will be about the 15th time I've seen them in 21 years and they never fail to rock like b***ards.

I also hope to hook up with a few of my rock loving mates which should make it even better.

This does mean I'll miss the final episode of this (excellent) season's Dr Who - but I'm sure the kids will record it for me and I'll watch it as soon as I get home.

I think I've been watching the good doctor for 35 years now and I still get excited by it. I was watching the excellent Inferno (3rd doctor) last night.

And then on Sunday I'm 40.


Are 40 year olds supposed to get so excited about heavy metal bands and sci-fi?

Who cares!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Conservative confusion in Henley

Just been listening to the Radio Berkshire hustings for the Henley by-election.

The bit that stood out for me was when the Conservative candidate, John Howell, was challenged about whether the Tories were actually going to take legal action over the famous Lib Dem magazine as promised by David Cameron last week.

John Howell started by saying that Cameron hadn't specified that legal action would be on the magazine.

The show's host, who had done the actual Cameron interview in question, made clear that it was.

Howell then said that they were not pursuing legal action over the magazine but would be doing so over the Townlands Hospital leaflet.

This is the leaflet where we quoted the Chair and former Chair of the Save the Townlands Hospital Campaign as saying that they did not know John Howell or any campaigning he had done for the hospital campaign.

John Howell made the point that he was present at a meeting of the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee which discussed Townlands.

Whether this degree of support is sufficient to warrant John Howell's claims that his support for the Townlands campaign is 'one of his proudest acheivements' is up to local electors to decide.

The people who ran the Save the Townlands campaign clearly don't believe so.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cameron can stick this!

Yesterday I pointed out that David Cameron had been a little hypocritical when he said this about one of our campaign magazines:

"I just think this sort of campaigning is absolutely appalling and as you say no mention on the newspaper that it’s from the Liberal Democrats sort of pretending to be a community newspaper eh I mean they should be really ashamed of what they’re trying to do"

I pointed out on the regional BBC News that the Conservatives had delivered a magazine of their own earlier in the campaign.

Well guess what we've picked up today?

That's right - "South Oxfordshire Life" - a magazine distributed by - you guessed it - the Conservatives!

But wait - in a green circle in the corner it says that it is "FREE from your local Conservatives".

But hang on a mo' - is it printed on the magazine?


It is a sticker that has been stuck on!

Do I take it that the the Conservatives were planning their own magazine, but that following Dave's criticism of our magazine they had to stay up all night sticking stickers on every copy in order to avoid a charge of hypocrisy?

I do hope so ;-)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Me vs. David Cameron

It seems that David Cameron wasn't as impressed with our excellent Henley campaign magazine as I was.

He was on Radio Berkshire yesterday describing it thus:

"I just think this sort of campaigning is absolutely appalling and as you say no mention on the newspaper that it’s from the Liberal Democrats sort of pretending to be a community newspaper eh I mean they should be really ashamed of what they’re trying to do"

As I pointed out on BBC South Today yesterday evening his point would be stronger if the Conservatives hadn't themselves delivered their own campaign magazine 'People Talk' earlier in the campaign.

It is nice to know that Dave is worried though.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The best campaign magazine ... EVER!

Here in Thame we've just taken delivery of a very large pile of fantastic campaign magazines.

In my view they may be the best by-election magazines ever.

(Yes even better than the 'Sedgfield Whippet'.)

Come to Thame and pick up a bundle, but be warned, they are shifting fast ;-)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Three leaders in one day

It's 20 years since I organised my first Leaders' visit when the then relatively unknown Paddy Ashdown visited the small Lib Dem branch at Leicester University. (Those were the days when getting into double figures in the polls would have been considered a major success!)

Today, though, was a first for me with not one, not two but three leaders all on one visit.

Paddy, Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg were all in Thame to support Stephen Kearney's campaign in the Henley by-election.

Tory candidate John Howell was under further pressure today over his links with property developers.

There are genuine questions which need to be answered here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

An opportunity for those of you bemoaning the lack of a by-election in Haltemprice & Howden

A lot of people seem to be very upset that they are not going to be able to travel to Humberside for the next few weekends to fight a by-election.

But worry not, help is at hand.

Here in Henley (which is much nearer to Taunton than Humberside!) we have piles of leaflets to deliver and large amounts of canvassing to do every day until June 26th.

Now I'm sure Taunton Deane Executive spent as much time planning who could come and help here and when as they did discussing the other by-election, but in case they need more details they can be found here.

Well done Mark

Congratulations to new Councillor Mark Mills who won the Holywell by-election in Oxford last night and takes over from my good friend and all round good egg Richard Huzzey.

The turnout was low due to the election being on the penultimate day of term. (Richard resigned very quickly so that it didn't slip into the summer vacation).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the result is that the Greens fell to fourth place in a ward that they held until May 1st this year.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back home, minus kitchen

We have finally moved back into our house, 10 months after last years flooding.

We do have a new floor, stair carpet, internal doors and it is all nicely decorated.

Unfortunately we are still without a kitchen - something of an issue as we have three children (well two children and one teenager!) to look after.

We are not bet pleased, although we are glad to be back home and will cope, no doubt.

Back at the by-election we are fighting ...

Lots of excitement here in Thame today due to media coverage of the Conservative candidate's links with property developers. (An issue because he is making a big play of the Green Belt issue.)

Peter Henley of BBC South news has been here to do an interview on the subject.

Once again we've had a good turnout and we are shifting piles of literature.

We've also had more MPs today - including Sandra Gidley, Andrew Stunnell and David Howarth.

We're looking forward to another visit from Nick Clegg over the weekend.

One of the best things about by-elections for me is that I bump into so many of the councillors and activists I know from across the country.

It's a great atmosphere here - do come and join in.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hotting up in Henley

It's a lovely warm day in Thame today.

As the writ for the by-election was being moved in Parliament Nick Clegg was meeting residents with Stephen Kearney in Henley Market.

After going on to meet some of the local papers Nick popped in to meet the team here at the HQ in Thame.

Several other MPs were out helping today including Chris Huhne and David Howarth who have been out Residents' Surveying with Stephen this evening.

The response is uniformly friendly and there is plenty of support.

Good to see that Labour are being honest about their chances too. It is clearly a 'two boat race'!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bye Bye Boris

So Boris has said that he is definitely going to resign as MP for Henley.

I met Boris a few times during my time as a County Councillor and always found him a genuinely pleasant and good-natured guy.

He also appeared to do a good job representing his constituents, certainly in the dealings I had with him.

I'm sure he is genuinely sad to be leaving Henley where he has been a well regarded MP.

Let battle now commence to choose his successor.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Wrong Twice in One Leaflet

Henley Conservatives have got their facts wrong twice over in their first leaflet of the campaign.

Lib Dem candidate Stephen Kearney lives in Aston Rowant, near Watlington, and very much in the Henley Constituency.

Yet in their first leaflet of the campaign the Tories claim he lives '200 miles away'.

But they also get the facts wrong about another candidate.

Green candidate Mark Stevenson also lives locally - IN THE NEIGHBOURING VILLAGE TO THE CONSERVATIVE - yet the same leaflet claims that the Conservative is 'the only local candidate'.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Abingdon is now wired

Great news for Abingdon residents and visitors as free wifi access was switched on yesterday.

Abingdon Town Council has worked with local IT company CTS to provide the service which it is hoped will roll out through the town as local businesses offer additional hubs.

Not only is this great news for Abingdon but it is also a great credit to my wife, Samantha, who has pushed the initiative through via the Council's website working group.

Our youngest, Emma, also had great fun helping to organise the Balloon Race which took place to promote the switch on.

Henley battle joined

Those of you listening to BBC Oxford or BBC Berkshire today will have heard me welcoming the selection of Cllr. John Howell as the Conservative candidate for the Henley by-election.

It is good that the Tories have selected their candidate, as it is always slightly odd when only one candidates is in the field.

But it also means we have an opportunity to highlight the gap between Tory spin on many issues and what they actually do in practice.

Just one example - we got our glossy County Council magazine through the door last week telling us how the County has achieved all the objectives it set for itself over the last year.

However there was no mention at all of the recent highly critical report into the County's failure to serve its young people across a range of services.

It looks like we face a highly negative campaign from the Conservatives against Stephen Kearney. (Most of their first leaflet is about him and our selection process!)

I'm gald to say that we will be campaigning on the issues that matter to local people, and the Conservative record locally.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A brief update

1 Hello Sarah! Gorgeous as ever I see:-)

2 We will be back in our home by June 9th at the latest. It is now plastered, decorated and has a new bathroom. The floor is half way there and then there is just the kitchen.

3 I still don't have internet access at home so haven't been blogging much but plan to resume when we move back.

4 I'm currently spending most of my time in Thame at our Henley by-election HQ. Do come and say hello!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Getting plastered

Much excitement at the house this morning as a team of plasterers and a skip turned up.

We've also had meetings with the building people and the kitchen people and expect to meet the flooring people and the decorating people soon too.

It should just be a month or so before we can move back in.

Having mastered the art of assembling flat-pack furniture (well, okay, 'mastered' is perhaps overstating things) I have also started on building some shelf units for the kids' room too.

In other news I am just about over the bout of pneumonia I had over Christmas and am about to attend my first evening meeting since I was ill.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jim Moley R.I.P.

Sad news yesterday that one of my best friends of recent years, Councillor Jim Moley, has passed away.

I'm told that he was found by local activists who turned up to his house to pick up some campaigning material, which, if true, would be fitting.

I first got to know Jim when we were both elected to Oxfordshire County Council in 1997, and even better following my selection as parliamentary candidate for Wantage and up to the 2001 election.

Jim had been elected as a Vale councillor much earlier, and then as a Town councillor, and by the time I knew him he had already achieved iconic status.

Jim was a colourful character, deeply involved in local activities including the Wantage Silver Band, the Choral Society and the Summer Arts Festival. He loved music and was a great believer in getting stuck in to community activity.

Jim was a tenacious and inteligent campaigner. He fought hard against closure of the community hospital and argued strongly for the comunity view of what should happen to local education provision. He was not afraid of challenging professionals or council officers if he thought they were ignoring the community, even when this made him unpopular in some circles.

Jim was a unique and eccentric human being. He didn't believe in locking his front door, and it was only recelty that he entered the computer age. His home was wonderful, part of the former vicarge next to the parish church in the centre of Wantage (and famous for its links with Betjeman) full to the brim with books, council paperwork and the odd pile of CDs, which he would clear away for branch campaign meetings.

Jim was also a loyal and hard-working campaigner. He was one of a small but dedicatedband of people who made my time as parliamentary candidate a joy. Rarely did two days pass without a long phone call about the latest controversy in town, and Jim helped me get on the right side of many an issue. He worked solidly hard delivering leaflets and knocking doors.

I enjoyed my regular visits to the town, my chats with Jim, and the many facilities the town as to offer. We still take the kids to the Vale and Downland Museum regularly (another of the projects Jim actively supported) and to the lovely informal Betjeman Park, just down the footpath from the church.

I suspect I will shed the occasional tear on future visits to the town.

Jim could be a hard person to like, he was an odd chap at times and could rub people up the wrong way. But he loved his town, his campaigning, and beating the opposition.

Politics in Wantage and Oxfordshire will be a chunk less interesting without Jim.

I for one will miss him dearly.

First the excuses

My regular readers, both of you, will have noticed a lack of posts recently.

We are still out of our home and don't have internet access in the temporary home. Thankfully we do now have contractors appointed for the refurbishment of our downstairs so the end is now in sight.

I've also been very busy at work, though it best to avoid blogging entirely about the leadership, and have spent the past month down with Pneumonia (my tip, avoid it!) and recovery from it.

I probably won't be blogging frequently until I'm back in the house.