Wednesday, 30 June 2010

those code words

the Silly Boys have posted about their Annual Meeting, at which there is sometimes a show trial, and always a stitch-up.  The officers of Reading Labour Party were elected unanimously (not just unopposed), and the meeting was described by the Boys as "busy and lively".  "Busy" is code for "packed" (in the technical sense, people were brought along to ensure sufficient numbers in case of a contested vote), and "lively" is code for - well, it should be obvious, for a blazing row and/or someone being physically ejected and/or physically attacked, all of which I have witnessed at previous such meetings.  What fun they do have.  Pity it is all pointless and meaningless, and has been since Labour lost control of the council in 2008.  Bye bye.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Da Jooz!

Bercow is right

to appoint this person, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, as chaplain to the House of Commons.  So who has got a problem with her (step forward, the Dean of Westminster the Very Rev Somebody or Other) - and why do readers think that might be?

Friday, 25 June 2010

The Times paywall of death

hat-tip Guido for the title.  The paywall has gone up, and I am a Times reader so I miss reading some of it on my BlackBerry.  I shall especially miss Oliver Kamm's column.  I would not previously have considered paying for this kind of content on line, but now I have my iPad (did I mention that before?) it will be a joy to read.  So, yes, probably.  I doubt the Murdoch empire thought about the iPad effect when they started all this, but I am sure I am not alone.  Guido thinks the paywall will kill off the readership.  I do not agree.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

she was born in Wales

Julia Gillard that is, the new prime minister of Australia, those who purport to know about Australian politics would do well to take notice, the Labor Party (note spelling, those who should know better) is not quite as blokey as those outside Australia would like to think it is.  Interesting times there.  There is a clip of Julia on youtube singing a Dolly Parton song, but I thought it would be unfair to put that up on her first day.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

more than a month ago

was the last time the Silly Boys posted anything on the Reading Labour website.  Then they said they were going to be a "very active opposition, starting now".  Since then, er.... Jo?  Jo?  (sound of tumbleweed)

what a lovely sight

can you tell who it is yet?  that's right, Raymond Domenech, probably-soon-to-be-erstwhile manager of the French football team, humiliated yesterday and on their way home today to a contemptuous nation.  This picture was taken in April 1977, when he was captain of Olympique Lyonnais.  He had just announced that as the school holidays had just started he and the team would behave like true Frenchmen and would go on strike, spending the time on holiday with their families instead of playing football.  Cue shock horror and media circus.  Domenech turned out for the press conference in the green kimono pictured, saying this was his preferred leisurewear.  The media were a bit more gullible in those days, in the end he had to point out to them what the date was.  1st April.  In France they call this "poisson d'avril" (April fish) and it is the custom to stick a paper fish on people's backs on that day.  F*** knows why.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

sloppy John

the blog by Cllr John "Salter's boy" Ennis is usually too tedious to read, and I certainly do not link to it.  Cllr Ennis has been exceptionally permitted to write a blog, a privilege denied to most of the Labour Group in Reading, because he is a trusty.  An ex-Trot but a trusty.  But look at this:

“We also have £1.3 billion that goes to local authorities in area based grant (ABG). This is a form of funding where the department makes specifics careful Mikey allocations to local authorities, but where local authorities have flexibility about how they spend it, for example where spending is discretionary, or where they can deliver statutory services more efficiently and cheaply they have freedom to deploy resources according to local decisions.”

“As part of the announced £1.165 billion cut in local government spending, the Department will this year reduce it’s careful careful Mikey, we are not a greengrocer area based grant to local authorities by £311 million.”

Michael Gove, Letter to Ed Balls, 7th June 2010

• Cuts totalling £311 million are equivalent to a 24 per cent cut across-the-board in every project and programme funded by these Area Based Grants. Thus far the government has not set out which of these grants will be cut, and in what proportion. If they do so, this campaign pack what's this Sloppy John? being fed a diet of Balls and forgetting to disguise the fact on your blog? will be updated to reflect this. and it goes on: 
You may wish to use this table when highlighting in your local media the impact of the cuts in your area. Oh really?  but did you want to publish this advice on your blog?  Sloppy sloppy John. Some of the individual projects and programmes funded by these Area Based Grants are currently delivering;  blah blah blah.

Very poor.

catch up with the internet

it is changing our lives in ways we don't understand yet, says John Naughton in an Observer article, which I recommend to all, especially perhaps to those who are still, and know that they are still, in the mindset of "broadcast to the punters and they will passively consume your words and start to believe they are true" and who need to change.  You know who you are.  Hat-tip, oddly enough, Anglicans Online.

Diane 4 Leader

Here is what Diane Abbott has sent to party members:


Dear xxxx,

It is a privilege to be nominated as a candidate for the leadership of my party and the movement that has given me every opportunity in life.
I am well aware of the major achievements of our Labour government over the last 13 years.
But this is a “turn the page” election and I believe I am the “turn the page” candidate.
I am the people’s candidate, not the Westminster insider’s candidate. I believe that this is a strength.
There are three main reasons why I believe I am the right person to lead the party in the coming period:
1) Rebuilding and re-energising the party is essential. I have come up through the movement. I have done every job that it is possible to do in the Labour Party: collected subs at a local level; served as a City councillor; served as an elected member of the National Executive of the Party from 1994 to 1997. And I have been a Member of Parliament for 23 years. I believe I know the party better than my rivals and that I am more in touch with the grassroots. I am the candidate to rebuild and revitalise the party and build it into a fighting force to oppose the Lib Con cuts.
2) On issues of policy, I am closer to the heart and soul of the movement than my rivals. I called all the big issues correctly. I voted against tuition fees, I was opposed to the removal of the 10p tax, and I marched, spoke and voted against the Iraq war. No other candidate took these positions when it was difficult to do so.
3) I believe that in an era of 24 hour news, the party needs a good communicator at the very top. I have a proven record of being able to communicate with people. I am able to talk about social ideals in a way that engages people. Above all, I think I have a reputation as a straight forward, principled and consistent politician.

I hope that you will feel able to support me in the coming leadership election.

If you want to know more, you can visit my website

Or email me on

Follow me on Twitter

Join my facebook group

Please forward this email to everyone you know

Yours in comradeship

Diane Abbott MP

I disagree with Diane on many things.  But I think she would be excellent   She is a person of clear vision and direction, and that is what the party needs now - not a trimmer who says what they think people want to hear.  I do think however that she is wrong about Iraq.  But there.  My position is clear and always has been, and I believe it was more difficult for a person to vote for the war in 2003, as I did, in the teeth of foul abuse from Guardian readers, than it was for Diane, who was clearly and consistently opposed, or for anyone who pretended they were opposed but in fact abstained.  But that doesn't matter now.  I don't have a vote in the process as I am no longer a Labour Party member but belong to the Parti Socialiste of France (go Martine!), but I would urge those who do to vote for Diane.  And I write this as a Blairite.

update: Alex Hilton has put it rather well on LabourList this morning:

under Diane, individuality would matter. Under Diane, we would have a leader with no hope of retaining power without engaging every faction, when each of the other candidates would need to build a factional dominance to keep power.

Monday, 21 June 2010

I really shouldn't have

but I have.  Got an iPad that is.  And it is a beautiful thing.  And I don't have to use the horrible ancient PC any more to get my emails and go on line at home.  It is 3G but at the moment I still have to use our home wireless network, which tends to disappear the further you go from the hub (our flat is long and narrow).  So I need a micro-sim card.  I have ordered one, but this being France I have to wait for it and then sign a paper contract which for 10 euros a month gets me teh internetz on my beautiful new toy anywhere in France.  Allegedly.  Things you never thought you needed.  This is how these things should be.  I am told I am an early uptaker of technology.  I might even go back to reading newspapers though now I can do so on that beautiful thing.  But Apple are BASTARDS.  They make you buy their stuff.  And keep on buying it.  They are much better capitalists than Microsoft are.  I don't know why people think Apple are cooler and more alternative.  If they had been the ones to sell the internet to people at the beginning there would be no creativity at all out there, just loads of people using Apple products.  There's a downside to everything I suppose.  

Angela Davis

was arrested when I was at school and was for a while a celebrity of a kind.  Largely I think my friends and I admired her because she had cool hair.  She was acquitted later, which people have forgotten these days.  Now there is a song about her (and about POTUS Barry O) by the former tennis player and now singer Yannick Noah, called "Angela" (he stresses the second syllable of her name, which sounds odd, but there you are, he is French and so is the song) which has been giving me earworm for days.  What do readers think about her these days?

Friday, 18 June 2010

they still don't get it

speed cameras no longer to be used as a cash cow

but speeding fines are a voluntary donation.  No-one has to pay them.  People choose to drive above the speed limit.  Then they have to pay.  Duh.

whatever happened to all of the heroes

Pilar Rahola is one, hat-tip Nick Cohen, and thanks to her for publishing her site in English as well as Spanish and Catalan.  She uses the standard bullet-point series of questions "Why" used by the rational and internationalist left, which I never do, but might start doing now.  Anyway, read her for yourself.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

a chorus of disapproval

the retirement age here in France is to be raised from 60 to 62, with predictable howls of outrage from unions and, regrettably, from Martine Aubry, leader of the Parti Socialiste, who has opposed it and referred to the "right" ("droit") to retirement at 60.  What world are they living in?  France has among the highest life expectancy in the world, largely because of the unrivalled excellence of its health service.  To give examples: I am 56 and in good health but am "suivi" (looked after) by an ophthalmologist, a podiatrist and a gynaecologist as well as having a GP and receiving mammogram and bowel cancer testing free as part of a national programme.  My mother, in the UK, is nearly 82 and has never consulted an ophthalmologist. You can get your teeth whitened here on your "carte vitale" (health card which entitles you to treatment) and there are no waiting lists for anything, except sometimes dentistry, depending on where you live.  I had varicose veins when I got here in 2007, not life-threatening at all, but they have been removed to give me a better quality of life, especially in the summer.  People live a long time here and perhaps more importantly they live in better health than in other European countries.  France also has among the lowest participation in the workforce by over-55s of anywhere in Europe.  You do the math, as the Americans say.  I expect and hope not to retire until I am at least 70.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

maiden speech

by Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, included the following remark about his predecessor Martin Salter:

He always had and continues to have firm opinions on every political subject. Indeed, during his time as an MP, he sometimes held two opposing firm opinions on the same subject, both delivered with great conviction.

How very true.

history of the Labour Party

I am reading rather a good one at present, called "Speak for Britain!", published earlier this year, by Martin Pugh.  Very readable, which too many historians are not.  He makes the amusing point that the Labour Party tends to reinvent its senior figures as something they have never been.  Clem Attlee might have been a bit dull but he gave us the welfare state, they clamour.  Actually Clem was arse as a prime minister and gave away the next election, after the triumph of 1945.  Barbara Castle was a great feminist, the sisters cry.  Actually she wasn't, and Germaine Greer for one loathed her for it.  Fiona Mactaggart MP, who is not daft, even spoke about Barbara's feminism at the 2008 party conference when Barbara had spent most of her life avoiding it.  Neil Kinnock started the reform of the party which made Labour electable again, they enthuse.  No he didn't (though he did other good things) - the 1987 manifesto was actually more extreme than the 1983 one, but let's not let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite, eh Kaufman?

I have just been on holiday and I took quite a few books with me, including the above, on my Sony book reader, which I like using very much, although the process of loading books on to it is not exactly user friendly.  I got it at the beginning of last year, and will carry on using it until I am obliged to have an iPad - which we must all have, sooner or later.  Last year I got myself a Mac laptop (MacBook Pro) and after some anguish at the accommodations required of a PC user of many years, I grew to like it and to enjoy the access it gives without having to become proficient in the technology, as well as fab things like GarageBand  and iphotos.  While I was blind in one eye back last month, before I had the cataract operation and threw my glasses away, I reached for a cup of coffee while I was using the laptop, missed the cup and poured the hot coffee into the keyboard.  The whole thing promptly died and I was told by those nice people at fnac (excellent shop, there is nothing like it in the UK) that it would cost more than a thousand euros to repair, ie it would be cheaper to get a new one, also that an accident was not covered by the guarantee (I had had the thing for less than six months at the time) and my delightful home insurance people tell me that the laptop is not covered because I did it myself, even though by accident.  Chiz.  So now what?  We have a clunky ancient PC at home that I cannot bear, and also I cannot get my ipod to talk to it although I have downloaded itunes on to it, so how do I even get more music?  I really really want an ipad for technoporn reasons, and I would really really like to have my reading and books and music and so on all in one place and portable for travelling.  But as I have got to pay for it myself I can't afford an iPad and a laptop.  Perhaps techno-expert readers can advise.  Also on the replacement for the home PC, which is becoming urgent.  Significant other does not mind reading a book while he waits for his emails to load, but I do.  Do we get a new PC?  Do we get a laptop PC for home, so we can use it with the TV as well?  Or what?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

they thought it was all over...

picked this up when I came back from holiday, Mr Salter still described as Vice-Chair of the Labour Party (which he is not) in the Telegraph, having glanced and put it to one side to read later while I was there, oddly enough the Montenegro beaches had more allure than a Telegraph blog.  However, I have belatedly read the thing, part of which deserves a little light fisking:

In fact, it took the disastrous decision to invade Iraq disastrous, huh?  why didn't you vote against it then?  why did you abstain and tell everyone in Reading you had voted against?  Answer that.  before the third party could make any real advances and even some of these were reversed at the recent election. It is not much more than an accident of electoral arithmetic, arising from Cameron’s failure to land a killer blow on a weakened and poorly led Labour Party weakened by what? and if poorly led why were you so vociferous in your defence of Gordon Brown?, that some parts of our great nation are now ruled by Liberal ministers for the first time in nearly a century. you what?  ministers don't "rule parts of our great nation", they form part of a government.  I think you are talking about the Con-Dem coalition in Reading.  Hein?

there is now an excellent opportunity for Labour if they resigned your membership have you?  "they" now is it?  don't have a vote in the process? select a new leader capable of articulating new and distinctive policy priorities that are attractive to younger voters in particular. I almost fell asleep reading the second half of that - what would those "policy priorities" be then?  still waiting

For me the decision to back Ed Miliband is a no-brainer. I have watched this guy in action in tough ministerial meetings at Energy and Climate Change as well as at the dispatch box. He is a sharp, warm and intelligent communicator he is a white bloke, what's good enough for the Reading party is good enough nationally and, although with cabinet experience, he does not smell of the tired old Blair-Brown divisions that will haunt his main rivals. The younger Miliband is a genuine environmentalist, although he should have resigned over the third Heathrow runway, why?  It was government policy and he was in government and this is an issue which will return to prominence and exercises more newer voters than old.
But irrespective of whoever gets to lead my party "my" oh you are still a member then, make your mind up, for me life has already moved on. I’m now based for a while on the other side of the world in Sydney, in a country where Labour it is spelled Labor over there, if you are going into the public prints at least check your facts, otherwise you will look an utter tit.  Oh.  is in power both nationally and in a majority of the states until November this year at the latest it would seem if you pay any attention to Australian politics.  Oh. Two-party tribal politics is not only alive and kicking down here, it is in-yer-face, complete with some choice expletives. what does this mean?  that if you use cuss words you get better politics?

So its goodbye to the brave new world of coalition politics in Britain, to yet another Labour leadership contest yet another? the last Labour leadership change was not a contest but a coronation.  The last Labour leadership contest was in 1994, some 16 years ago, and most of us have recovered from that one by now and, I’m afraid, to Daily Telegraph blogs. it's the worst kind of self-importance to attach welcome or regret to any blog or posting thereon.  A blog is just the expression of views by a person, who does not get paid to write it.  Oh.  I’ve enjoyed covering the election period for a newspaper from the other side of the political tracks. Its been fun to occasionally read so let's get this straight.  You don't actually read all the comments on your blog?  It is broadcast only, not a dialogue?  Oh.  some of the more rabid comments from the not so brave, anonymous standard bearers of the Right I doubt that even the looniest commenters on the Telegraph blogs would describe themselves as standard-bearers for anything, but it is now time to retreat back to our respective comfort zones.  Is that right?  but your own comfort zone has disappeared, hasn't it Martin?  No chance now of the the corrupt little clique at the heart of the Reading Labour Group providing you with the sinecure they had promised.  The shredders didn't quite reach everything you know.  So now you are unemployed in Australia.  And not even doing anything political there, where the Labor Party would probably have welcomed your input.  So long as you spelt their name right.

Friday, 11 June 2010

time to support the team

even though I have lived in France for nearly three years, have no intention of living in the UK again, and may even start the process of becoming a French citizen (for the vote among other benefits) now that I think I can pass the language test - this is still the team for me.  Since my niece got married in 2007 and had a baby girl very recently I have had family who are francophone and with origins in Togo, and who live mostly in the USA.  The Togo-born ones love football, but do not support France though they are francophone.  The US-born ones, and even the US-resident ones who were born in the UK, no longer pretend football allegiance, as in the USA they Do Not Care.  But my step-great-nephew, age 12, born in Togo and a mad keen footballer, his dad ditto, and who knows, maybe my new great-niece Tessa, may be part of the football future of the USA.  I hope so.  And let's not forget that allegiance is not that simple.