Thursday, 30 September 2010

stalker watch

this site is cyber-stalking (and possibly worse) the head of the student body at the University of Ann Arbor Michigan.  but even worse, the author of the site is the deputy District Attorney of that state!  Can this be right/legal/allowed to continue?  Michigan is one of the US states which allows people to be fired from their job for being, or apparently being, gay or transgender, but this person is an officer of the law, effectively.  Stop it now.  Hat-tip Chris.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Ed Miliband is to...

Someone commented after the leadership election that comparing with the Tories Labour had skipped William Hague and gone straight to IDS. Possibly. I suspect that Mili-E is the Segolene Royal of British politics. Remember her - she was presidential candidate in France in 2007, and one of the less clever things she did was go to Lebanon and be pictured drinking tea and nodding and smiling with a bunch of Hamas terrorists. She says in her book that the interpreter didn't translate everything, so she didn't know what they were saying at the time. No excuse, Sego. You should have taken your own interpreter, or learned Arabic, for f***'s sake.

Anyway, seems that Ed has attended the Labour Friends of Palestine annual reception. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. No, but, well, use a long spoon... However, he spoke and was pictured in front of an al-Aqsa banner. You know the chaps, Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers. Oh yes. Oh no.

Monday, 27 September 2010

he wants a job!

I am much indebted to a correspondent for pointing me in this direction.  If I am looking for a job, or applying for one, I send my CV of course, as everyone must,  but having it linked to by some bloke (Basher of course) who is also unemployed and with a record of violent behaviour seems an odd way of getting it out there.  Have a look - Mr Salter describes  himself as good at "crisis management".  Crisis?  What crisis?  Oh and one of Mr S's referees is John Denham MP - I hope he is happy to have his name bandied about like this.  Dear oh dear, well I declare.  Readers' views most welcome.  I always think CVs make fascinating reading, but I wouldn't publish mine on line, it might end up on a blog not necessarily designed to be helpful to me.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

turns out

that the new regime in Reading booted the fraudster's friend, Stuart Singleton-White, off the board of Reading Buses on 12th July this year,(Cabinet minutes inform us), once the coalition had got its feet under the table, and replaced him as chair with his deputy, Dictatorship Dave "moronic members of the public" Sutton. However they put one of their own, Cllr Tom Harris, on to the board, as well they might. It does seem a little unfair of the Tories, given all the help S S-W gave them, but whatever. Presumably this was a Tory-Labour stitch-up to keep an unwanted person, probably a LibDem, off the board of that august body. In what is undoubtedly an unrelated stratagem, Cllr Warren Swaine (LibDem, Katesgrove, the very "moronic member of the public" who ousted Dictatorship Dave from Reading Borough Council (huzzah!) is quoted in that very statement (see previous post) possibly deliberately incoherently.

In an unrelated development, Cllr Azam Janjua (Con, Church) has been appointed to the board of Readibus, along with Cllrs Ruhemann and Tory Tickner. I wonder if Tickner sits with him in meetings,given that the previous Labour Group statement (Lovelock and Sutton passim) said that Janjua was not safe with women, although that did not persuade them to withdraw his taxi licence, because after all girls who get taxis at night are probably from Whitley, and certainly asking for it, hein? And the foregoing is casting no aspersions on Cllr Janjua, which I do not, but on the credibility of Lovelock and Sutton.

victim of Tory cuts!

Er, possibly. The fraudster's friend is out, to be replaced by Dictatorship Dave, see below from Reading Buses, Friday 24th September:

New Chairman

Reading Transport appoints a new chairman.

The Board of Reading Transport Ltd last night appointed David Sutton as its new Chairman.
He succeeds Stuart Singleton-White who chaired the meeting for the last time.  His appointment as a Director ends this month.
In a statement issued today, David Sutton said:  “This is a position which I neither sought nor expected, but which will be an honour to hold.
“I will try to continue the work of my predecessors in building a bus company and a bus service of which Reading can be truly proud.
“I would like to pay a special tribute to the work which Stuart Singleton-White performed as Chair in a really progressive and consensual manner which I will seek to emulate.
“Fortunately for me, Stuart is a close personal friend and I will be able to draw regularly on his advice.” 
Commenting on the appointment, Councillor Warren Swaine, also a Non-Executive Director of the Company, said today:  “David Sutton’s appointment is welcomed and will ensure a smooth transition.
“He will lead the Board of Directors in a very support manner as the Company seeks to provide a bus service to the people who live, work and visit Reading.”

So has the Council appointed a new board member of Reading Buses? I think we should be told 

Saturday, 25 September 2010

needed to be said

where would I be without Norm (rhetorical question alert, whoop whoop, those men in white all in one suits on those little trucks in an underground Evil Headquarters, oh please  yourselves)

I read the editorial in today's Times (I am now behind the Murdoch Paywall of Death so I can) and was struck by it, thinking of the moral equivalence - if there is a need for an independent British nuclear deterrent, as Attlee thought, and as I think, for different reasons, then why shouldn't everyone think they should have their own, and deserve one?  Good question, hein?  Good answer, Norm, below.

From a Times leader today (£) on the need for an independent British nuclear deterrent:
The arguments advanced for Britain's independent deterrent have altered, but the essential judgment made by Attlee was right. In a world that includes hostile and bellicose regimes, and in which there is no world government capable of countering aggression, an independent deterrent is Britain's insurance against nuclear blackmail.
One way of avoiding this conclusion would be to assume that the world is safe against the possibility of nuclear threats from hostile regimes. However, to think the world is like this - isalready like this - after the experience of the last 100 years or so, you must have spent too much time listening to chants of 'Love and peace, man'. Yet for those of more pessimistic intelligence, the above argument from the Times leader has a rather dispiriting general consequence. If 'an independent deterrent is Britain's insurance against nuclear blackmail', then so, equally, would an independent deterrent be the insurance against nuclear blackmail for another country. If we consider the issue as a matter of impartial justice, therefore, every country can make the same claim with the same moral force.
On the other hand, as is well-known, the possibility of non-nuclear powers (such as Iran) becoming nuclear powers isn't looked on by the existing nuclear powers with the kind of equanimity one might expect if 'fair-mindedness' (for want of a better word) ruled in this matter. From which one may conclude that in international affairs the demands of inter-state equity reach only so far. In the circumstances prevailing this may not be a bad thing entirely, since some states are better than others.

Friday, 24 September 2010

the number of spoiled ballots is as follows...

my little poll has now closed, and I suspect it does not reflect the real result, which we shall know tomorrow.  It has Mili-D the winner, followed closely but not that closely by his bruv Mili-E (one correspondent calls them the Corsican Twins), then a long way behind by Diane Abbott, then Andy Burnham got one late vote, and, apparently only moments before close of poll, so did Mr Cooper-Balls.  So there you have it.

a Strasbourg scene

this blog might not be the best place for this, but I have just been told an on-my-way-in-to-work-this-morning anecdote today (remember we are in France) - like this: elderly woman with small dog on lead; dog gets interested in something on ground; elderly owner pulls dog away; dog gets pissed off; they tussle a bit, unequally; dog jumps at owner's face with intent to bite; owner holds dog, by lead, away from own face; dog is beside itself with rage at this point; owner spits, confidently and copiously, in dog's face; collapse of dog rage and sedate departure, side by side, of owner and dog.

in the category of (1) you what? and (2) how I wish I had seen that and had the presence of mind to switch on the video on my iPod.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

fisking Basher

at least I thought I was going to, but now I think I will just reproduce this, from a letter he says he has sent out to residents in Posh Park, where he lives, and ask readers to spot the deliberate mistake(s):

Presentation to Wokingham Borough Council of the Petition.

Wokingham does not have a Council meeting in October, so the Petition, which now contains over 530 signatures in the paper and online form, will be presented to the Council. If you are available please meet at Wokingham Borough Offices, Shute End, at about 7.10pm for a photograph. The petition will be handed over at 7.30pm.

Consultation Drop In Meeting: Park Church Hall Friday 24th September

btw the letter is titled "Dates for Your Diary"

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

he's free

Nikolai Alekseyev, pictured, has been released, after being arrested at Moscow airport as he was about to board a flight to Geneva.  He was detained in the airport, then at a police station some distance from Moscow.  Messages were sent from his phone that he was going to claim political asylum in Belarus, which he is adamant he did not send.  The airport authorities issued a statement that he had been detained for refusing to take off his shoes at security.  He denies this and says he had already passed through security when he was detained.  Nikolai Alekseyev is a gay activist who is Not At All Popular with the mayor of Moscow, Luzhkov (who in his turn is not popular with President Medvedev), who has stated that Moscow Pride, of which Nikolai is one of the organisers, is the work of Satan.  Nikolai has an outstanding application with the European Court of Human Rights, and he says he was pressured to withdraw it, but that he did not do so.  I know Nikolai slightly, in fact I wrote the foreword to a book of his on gay marriage.  I wish you well Nikolai, and if you come to Strasbourg come and see me.  Hat-tip Chris.

just a bit of fun

as Peter Snow used to say.  I have put up a little poll on the Labour leadership.  Feel free to vote, and vote often.  It will not be there for long, for obvious reasons.  And remember that you are voting for the person you think WILL be the leader, not for the person you would like to be the leader.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Slap

I read this book because someone commenting here referred to it as having made the Booker (sorry, Man Booker) long list - I hadn't heard of it, or the writer, Christos Tsiolkas, before.  It is splendid stuff in my view.  Raunchy too.  One view is that it did not get beyond the long list because there is such a lot of, how to put this, cock in it. Tsiolkas is Greek Australian and writes in English.  It was fascinating to me on Australian culture, with which I am not very familiar, and its sexual politics.  And it is a great story - a man at a summer barbecue with extended family and friends slaps a child not his own, and the consequences of that touch them all.  The main characters get a long chapter each and we find out about their lives outside the child-slapping story.  We are not invited to love any of them, and I did not, although the Greek grandfather in his old age made me cry, and the teenage boy did too.  But read it if you can.  Well, you can, because that nice Mr Amazon will bring it round for you on his bike if you ask him to.  Something the author perhaps did not intend as a response is that I found the book very full of life.  Almost exhaustingly so.  Quite a lot of what I have read recently, from England and from France in particular, seems bloodless by comparison.  There is a lot of enthusiastic drinking, and eating, and sex, and consumption of other substances, and not much agonising about any of it.  This may be a Greek thing.  It may be an Australian thing.  It may just be Christos Tsiolkas's thing.  I know that there is plenty of Australian writing that hardly makes it out of that country, and I have resolved to read some more of it.  We are planning a trip Down Under next year and this is how I will prepare.
btw it took me most of the book to work out just what or who Australians mean when they use the word "wog".

Ming the Merciless

Campbell that is, former leader of the LibDems, may not get to be High Commissioner to Australia after all, it says here, hat-tip Independent Jones (wonder where he got it from though).  I have been to the High Commissioner's residence in Canberra, and had there possibly the most boring dinner of my life, in what may be the most boring place on earth.  So Ming has perhaps got off lightly.  Top gaff though.

Basher needs to use his brain

rather than his fists.  This is his latest gem.  He refers in the same paragraph to "Park South" and "South Park".  Which do you mean Basher?  Oh and there is no such place anyway.  Dur.  Who killed Kenny?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

a Journey

Tony Blair, 'A Journey'

Here I am again, reading the big political books so you don't have to.

A lot has been written about this book, and many reviews published.  Most of those who have commented on the book, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, have not read it.  It is a long book, and even if you have nothing else to do it is going to take you a while.  Most of those who commented have looked in the index, either for their own name (ahem) or, for example, for names such as that of Ruth Turner, because of the alleged - oh, never mind.  Anyway, I have actually read the whole thing, and an enjoyable read I found it too, and not just because he gives background and detail to situations I was in.

When I started reading this I knew I would broadly be in agreement with Tony.  I did not vote for him as leader back in 1994, but I became a Blairite as time went on, especially on international affairs.  So, his opening remarks "this [Labour government] lasted thirteen years.  It could have, as I say in the final chapter, gone on longer, had it not abandoned New Labour".  He saw that when public opinion turns against you, even if you're right you're wrong, as was true too of the Major government.  Like most (including me) who have been candidates and won elections, he feels no euphoria,, not even on election night in 1997.  When someone lurched up to him that night and said "You're going to be a great prime minister, Tony, you really are, he said "Oh, bugger off."  Early in the book he presents the insight that progressive governments always develop, nearly always too late: "All progressive governments have to beware their own success.  The progress they make reinvents the society they work in, and they must in turn reinvent themselves to keep their consequence diminishes, so their dwindling adherents become even more shrill and strident... They must listen before speaking" (p. 41).

He is interesting on politics and religion.  After all, he had little choice but to go there.  "Religion starts with values that are born of a view of humankind.  Politics starts with an examination of society and the means of changing it.  Of course politics is about values; and religion is often about changing society.  But you start from a different place" (p. 79).

He says the 1997 manifesto and policies were worked out with Gordon, and every decision "was born of a set of thoroughly worked-out positions" (p.93).  Yes they were.  A candidate can always tell when the platform they are standing on is rubbish.  And most of us have done it.  This is why being a candidate in 1997 was hugely comfortable and secure.  I thank him too for this, which I had to battle for eight long years, against the stupid left and the general ignorance, to be found especially among Labour Party activists: "It's extraordinary how anyone who opposes the government is principled while anyone who is loyal is just a sycophant, when the support is usually harder than the opposition" (p. 125).

I enjoyed some of the language, it was a bit Rover and Wizard or even Malory Towers (Tony is about a year older than me) - he quite often "beetles off", Bill Clinton is a "total brick" and people are "clattered about the head".

And now we come to interventionism, something close to my heart, though I did not realise in 1997 that it soon would be.  "Back up a demand with a credible threat, and the demand has a good prospect of being satisfied.  If you seem unsure about how far you will go to enforce a demand, a confrontation becomes almost inevitable" (p. 230).  This is from the speech he made in Chicago on 24th April 1999, "Doctrine for the International Community", not much remarked on at the time, but extensively quoted from since.  It was a slow burner.  I was laughed at by some of my Guardian-reading constituents when I cited it to them.  But partly as a result of that speech, and of course of intervening events, in 2005 the UN (yes, the UN) adopted 'Responsibility to Protect", which gives the international community the duty to intervene if a state fails to protect its citizens from atrocity.

As an aside, I hadn't realised that his speech to the Women's Institute, at which he was slow-handclapped,was about - Good Manners!

Iraq and WMD: "...a mystery.  Why should Saddam keep the inspectors out for so long when he had nothing to hide?  Even when he let them in, why did he obstruct them?  Why bring war upon his country to protect a myth?" (p. 374).  Tony tries to answer this in the following pages, and they are worth reading.  These pages have not been mentioned in any review I have seen, either. Because they are too subtle for those who wish to comment, or because those people have not actually read them.  In any case these, as Tony says, have made their minds up already.

The Suez venture,  in which Britain and France sought to topple Nasser in Egypt, failed.  How would it have been seen by history if it had succeeded?

Apparently (p. 411) Hans Blix kept saying "I have to decide for war or peace" and wouldn't listen to Tony telling him it wasn't actually his decision.  There's a lot here, but remember that there had already been military action in Iraq, in 1993 and 1998, in support of UN Resolution 660 (1990) which was still extant in 2003.  In fact Resolution 1441 was itself the "second resolution" people were on about at the time.  Also, "when people say that there were warnings that planning for the aftermath was not up to the mark, that is absolutely true.  What is forgotten, however, is that those warnings were about eventualities that fortunately didn't materialise.  Somehow, despite the inadequacy, there was no humanitarian disaster.  The food was distributed  The system worked." (p. 442).

Tony had dinner with Vladimir Putin in April 2003.  He has a lot of admiration for Putin, though relations between them cooled around Iraq, and the smaller former eastern bloc nations' support for the action, and for NATO. He quotes Putin: "Suppose we act against Georgia, which is a base for terrorism against Russia - what would you say if we took Georgia out?  Yet Americans think they can do whatever they like to whomever they like.". (p. 451).  Russia did invade Georgia of course, in August 2008.  And received polite criticism internationally for doing so (and enthusiastic support from some of my correspondents, despite the lack of UN input of any kind) despite the many deaths and the thousands of refugees created.

Too many autobiographies and memoirs give the author's take on events and incidents without quoting any facts.  Tony does not do this.  He quotes, even when the quotes are decidedly unhelpful to him.  This is what Andrew Gilligan said on the Today programme, which I remember hearing, half-asleep, and being shocked by: "What we've been told by one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier was that actually the government probably knew that the forty-five minute figure was wrong even before it decided to put it in... Downing Street, our source says, a week before publication, ordered it to be sexed up, to be made more exciting, and ordered more facts to be discovered.".  We know what happened after that.  A man died in an Oxfordshire wood.

"There was no popular uprising to defend Saddam" (p. 465).  No there was not.  Despite the millions who marched in the West waving the flag of Saddam's regime.  Those who actually lived under his rule, and most of his neighbours, wanted him gone.  As to the Iraqi casualties, Tony consistently sees Iraq Body Count, an organisation which does not have the aim of rehabilitating the then Labourgovernment or of being helpful to Tony Blair, as authoritative.  And "the lesson goes wider: it is about rising above the fray, learning how to speak above the din and clatter,and always, always, always keeping focused on the big picture" (p. 481) "assorted intellectuals whose main contribution was to explain why nothing should change, in the name of being radicals" (p. 487).

Vignettes (what is the English for vignette?): when Israel disengaged from Gaza (p. 515) "the international community saw it as a unilateral act lby Israel and therefore wrong, not as lifting the occupation.

He describes himself as a "naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop" (p. 516) for wanting the Freedom of Information Act.

During the 2005 UK presidency of the EU a budget deal was reached.  The UK media called it a betrayal, but "frankly they would have done if I had led Jacques Chirac in chains through the streets of London"  (p. 542).

"Then there is the moment of encounter, so exciting, so naughty, so lacking in self-control" (p. 591) - he was ostensibly talking about John Prescott's affair with his diary secretary, but - did he know personally what this was like?  His marriage with Cherie struck me as happy, but still...

Tony clearly has a conscience about letting himself be pushed out, I think because he chose his time.  If you don't want to go it is better if you make them make you go.

"I was, after all, still prime minister" (p. 625) - his Duchess of Malfi moment.  Such a mistake.

He describes his final chapter, intended as a postscript, as more of a credo, though I find it pure self-justification.  I think his credo is more like this: "all successful, modern campaigns, including the Sarkozy campaign in France in 2007,  utilised modern methods and - this to me being the crucial point -blurred the distinction betwewen the inner core - the activists - and broader public support" (p. 638).

And finally, as someone once said, "Every walk of life is now subject to strong rules of  disclosure, scrutiny and accountability, except one: the media." (p. 678).

Thursday, 16 September 2010

was this a good idea?

a comment on a previous post may not have been seen by all readers, so I reproduce it here: revealing in more than one sense, I think you will agree.

Hi Jane,

Adam at the Chronicle here!

For what it's worth, Mr Salter hadn't actually sent a press release, though I can't claim any great journalistic inquiry either.

It was a simple 'google alert' I still have set up from his time as MP, which flashed up for the first time in a few months at the weekend with the story on the Australian Fishing World website.

I saw your story on it a couple of days later, then that he had put something on his website.

kind regards,

Adam Hewitt

15 September 2010 18:26

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

my fry

Stephen Fry has, it is said, made publishing history by releasing his memoirs as a print book, an e-book and an iphone and iPad application.  Good for him.  I have just tried to get it as an iPad app and have received the helpful message "Aucune app pour iPad ne correspond a votre recherche".  This is presumably because I am in France and therefore obliged to access the French app store.  For the same reason I have no iBooks, because there is nothing in the French iBooks store that I want.  Whatever happened to globalisation?  I have always been in favour of it and am still waiting.

who remembers Philip?

Macedonia has been celebrating its Independence Day, and I wish it and its people a very happy one and a great future.  In my visits to all (40+) European capitals with significant other over the past seven years (we finished in June this year in Montenegro) there were some delights (Helsinki, Lisbon, Dublin), some pleasant surprises (Sarajevo, Bratislava), some disappointments (Warsaw, Tallinn, Madrid) and some utter horrors (Bucharest, The Hague).  The visits were to cities not countries, but it was south-east Europe as a region that delighted us.  Especially Macedonia and Montenegro.  The former has democratic institutions to be proud of, only 17 years after emerging from Yugoslavia, and the food and wine are just great.  Oh and doesn't it have the coolest flag?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

sigh - just when you thought it was...

I blogged recently that Mr Salter had woken up and said something in Australia about fishing.  Or about fishing in Australia. For some reason (couldn't be that the only publicity for his latest venture had come from yours truly, and we couldn't have THAT) this stuff has now been put on his website, which still has pictures of Reading East and the legend "Working for Reading West".  Have a website by all means.  Blog, certainly, but, months after leaving Parliament still calling yourself the MP, even with dates attached?  Very poor.  Now please do something useful or go away, and take that site down and put up a proper one.
update: as the commenter says, the Reading Chronicle has published something about this.  I do not imagine they were following the New South Wales inquiry, nor that they read the Sydney Morning Herald.  The obvious conclusion is that Mr S sent them a press release on his remarks - and the picture looks as though it was taken somewhere which is not Reading too.  So - if he is fed up with being unemployed then I can understand why he might want publicity for his activities while he looks for work.  What makes no sense is why he would want publicity in Reading.  Unless of course the informant who told me that he is going back to Reading to stand for the council, and ultimately for Parliament again, is actually correct and not talking rubbish as I assumed at the time.   

Monday, 13 September 2010

the Pope in England, first musings

I will be in England myself next weekend, for just two days, in Bristol, including the day the Pope makes an English saint.  My brother, who happens to be Warren Professor of Catholic Thought at Duke University, North Carolina, USA, and who is, unlike me, a devout Catholic, is going to be there too, in some way accompanying the Pope.  I wasn't minded to muse on this visit (though a colleague who is a Scottish Catholic tells me this morning that his father is making an 18-hour round trip to see the Pope in Scotland) until I switched on Sky News early this morning.  Not the first place I would look for theological insights.  I heard Eamonn Holmes, who I believe is a Catholic himself update: yes he is, searches for biog of anyone from Northern Ireland always tell you where they went to school, and that tells you their religion in that province refer to the Pope as "the Holy Father".  Well, I suppose if you are Catholic that is what you call the Pope and that is how you think of him.  However.  It seemed inappropriate to me.  If there was a news story about the prophet Muhammad (and there have been several in recent years have there not) would it be appropriate for a Muslim (or any other) TV presenter to say "peace be upon him" after Muhammad's name?  No.  Hein?

dirty tricks in the High Court

the Telegraph has a story about the former immigration minister, Phil Woolas MP (good man in my opinion) who represents a very marginal Oldham seat and who just held on to it at the last election against a LibDem challenge.  He appears to have intimated in his election strategy that his LibDem challenger is or was linked to "Islamic extremists" and that a vote for that person would strengthen those links, with the attendant effect on the community.  His election team allegedly wanted to make the "white Sun-reading vote" motivated to come out and vote.  I would say - what is wrong with that?  Ignore that vote at your peril.  And as for the claims about LibDem links with Islamic extremists, well I have no idea if they were ever even made, and if made if they were true, but I do say that it would not surprise me at all if they were true.  Links to the more medieval wing of the south Asian community is a great temptation for both Labour and the LibDems.  Most local parties honourably resist.  But not all do.  Mr Salter burned a book in the streets of Reading in the company of such people.  And the LibDems, not having an ideology or a political philosophy to give them anchor, shift with the wind, and have no scruples about the company they keep, in my personal experience.  A vote for the LibDems is not a vote for the nice people.  And most of the party is as racist as the BNP.  Phil Woolas is to give evidence today in the High Court.  Sour grapes, Mr LibDem.  Go away and stop bothering decent people now you have lost the election.  Go and bomb a girls' school or something.

the liberty

of Earley is the ancient name for that area of east Reading, some of which is in the borough of Reading and some in the borough of Wokingham.  It is NOT called "Erleigh", as Basher  would have us believe.  If you want to campaign on something Basher then do try to get its name right.  For credibility reasons.  I notice that the little poll on his site is not getting a huge turnout either.  Probably because it is asking the wrong question.  Namely "Should Wokingham be allowed to change catchment areas?"  Of course it should.  It is a democratically elected body.  If you want it to make a particular decision then campaign for that.  Silly boy.  Anyway, when I looked this morning there were only seven votes on each side (neck and neck, everything to play for!), and three of the "yes" votes came from me - on my home PC, my iPad and my BlackBerry.  Poor.

Friday, 10 September 2010

the right thing for the wrong reasons

often causes political wrongs for moral rights.  One example is the Iraq war - the right thing to do but widely condemned beause "Bush and Blair" were seen as the ones doing it.  Longer ago, the savage barbarisms perpetrated in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge and tolerated or apologised for by many on the Left in the same way as "Islamic" crimes against humanity such as honour killings or female genital mutilation are today, were not remedied by the West, and Cambodia has been left impoverished and isolated to this day, because it was rescued by the "wrong" people, the communist Vietnamese.  We see something similar today with the proposed Koran-burning tomorrow, which has been on, off and on again.  The wrong thing to do.  Book-burning of any sort is wrong, and as Mr Dylan sang back in 1975 "If something ain't right, it's wrong".  But not burning books because Muslims might kill people as a result is wrong too.  Should Jews have been put in camps in the UK in the 1930s because Hitler might invade otherwise?  No.  See?  The right thing to do would, perhaps, be to go to that pastor's church in Florida and stand up and denounce the act.  Anyway, for those who have not seen the Jesus and Mo strip, here the boys are on the subject:

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A splendid contribution - the zombie walks again!

this is a splendid example and a splendid contribution. The picture of Mr Salter is credited to the website, which does not exist. It emerges that his web presence is now different, although it still shows copyright "Martin Salter MP", is still produced by Public Impact Limited (prop. J. Howarth, remember "Your Better Off With Labour"?) and has plenty of pictures of the Reading East constituency.  Bizarre. It is not realistically possible in today's world to be politically active, or active in any other way, without any kind of cyber-presence. And Mr Salter has chosen, rather late, to go into politics in Australia. He has even been published in the Sydney Morning Herald.  A pity that in the fishing mag piece he refers to a hung parliament, when there is no such thing in Australia and when the piece itself was published after it became clear that there was to be a Labor government. Oh well, never mind, could do better - but if you want to go to work, Mr S, in Australia or anywhere else, if the delights of unemployment have now palled, you had better learn to use this newfangled cyberweb thingy. Oh and has nobody told you that sending out handwritten press releases a week in advance is likely to make you look, when events (and the fact that Julia Gillard initially had no majority should have been a clue here) were moving quite fast, a bit silly. And we don't hear from you about Mr Blunkett's remarks in the Daily Filth about your erstwhile constituency! What's that you say? They don't sell the Guardian in the kiosks of Darling Harbour? Blunkett, go on, you can do it if you Really Try, there's a brave little soldier, we won't let the nasty horrid interweb thingy get you.  Well, we might if we get bored.

Seriously, does anyone else think it odd that a former MP who lives on the other side of the world should be seeking a publicity presence in Reading, to the extent that serving councillors and hired thugs there have been ordered to link to his musings in Australia?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

a narrow sect

A correspondent, who is a sharp observer of the political scene, and who does not live in Reading but has some sound knowledge of what goes on there, writes today as follows, and is spot on:

In today's Guardian, Blunkett says 'Take a constituency like Reading West, where many people live on £20,000 per year. You have to ask yourself what made them vote Conservative - their concerns were not necessarily the concerns of the most active members of the Labour Party and that is the terrible, historic dilemma for the Labour Party. .....for instance, if you turn away from the electorate on issues like crime and terroism , the voters will turn away from you'.
No, the concerns of Reading West constituents  were not those of the most active members of the Reading Labour Party, were they? However, what Blunkett refuses to acknowledge is that since 1997, the most active members of the Reading Labour Party were not [thinking about] 'crime/terrorism' etc, but were de-selecting the neighbouring  Reading East MP and then turning the Reading Labour Party into a narrow sect based on personality - with candidates selected as weak stooges who would not rock the boat - all the way to the electoral gallows - first in 2005 and then finally in 2010.  RIP.

I reckon, hein?


did not see this one coming.  Good for her.  The Boys have nothing to say about Reading Pride, or Diane Abbott's visit to it, or her becoming a patron of it, so clearly she went there without their endorsement.  Does not seem anyway that the Reading boys had a presence there.  They endorsed Ed Miliband I believe. Perhaps because, like Mr Salter, he faced both ways on the Iraq war. I went to the first Reading Pride, towards the end of my time in Reading, and the Boys were not there then, though the Conservatives were. I had a terrific time.  I'm glad the event is so successful and glad Diane Abbott is its first-ever patron - would be intrigued to know who she knows there.  May it continue to flourish.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Blair-hatred: a hypothesis

the Normster posts excellently today on the deranged and personal hatred of Tony Blair of which we have seen evidence in recent days as he has been promoting his book A Journey: My Political Life (which I had of course pre-ordered and am reading now, it is a biggun).  I would urge everyone to read Norm's post - his hypothesis is broadly that it is psychological distress that causes people to react in this way; they cannot cope with facing their own support for bloodthirsty tyranny.  This makes sense to me.  In 2003 when That March took place I was in Glasgow and watched the march there.  I went public a day or two later in Reading, remarking on the number of Iraqi flags being carried by the marchers and saying "I never knew Saddam Hussein had so many fans".  The savagery that was turned on me then was visceral, and personal.  No-one ever tried to debate the issues with me.  No-one wanted to.  After all, I was making a statement of fact.  There were a lot of Iraqi flags carried that day.  And if you march in the public street with a flag then you are, in a way that has been understood for many centuries, showing that you support or in some way belong to the entity (Careful.  Ed.) that the flag represents.  And it was of course the Guardianistas who were the most savage.  Frivolously I might say that if I was pissing off Guardian readers I must have been doing something right.  But more thoughtfully I would say that it was the Guardian readers who felt most uncomfortable with their support for tyranny, and least willing to face up to that for what it was.  That was not the kind of person they thought they were.  So they turned on the person who showed them that that was exactly the kind of person they were being.  Reading Labour did not deselect me over Iraq - they might have tried, but as Mr Salter had by then been exposed publicly as a liar, having said he voted against the war when in fact he abstained, they would have quickly been in difficult terrain - or over any policy issue.

Read Norm on Iraq and hatred.  Please.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Speak for Britain!

This is a history of the British Labour Party by historian Martin Pugh, and very readable it is.  It was published earlier this year, and like all histories it is of its time, ie now.  This is probably why so much here is so familiar.  I am sure there are many aspects of the Labour Party in its earlier years that would not be at all familiar now, but Pugh does not write about those.  He notes that Labour won elections in Bradford and West Ham in 1898 and promptly initiated a minimum wage and an eight-hour day for council employees, with two weeks' annual holiday.  "Such successes gave Labour a pronounced municipal character and demonstrated how municipal work could reinforce parliamentary campaigns" (p.53).  Quite.  And true for other parties too, notably the Tories.  When a party loses its councillors and thus its municipal base, not much is left.  This at least shows us that it has always been thus for Labour.

In the early years of ILP candidates "candidatures had too often been essentially propagandist, designed to ventilate the need for independent labour representation rather than trying to get candidates elected.". You only have to look at the current leadership election to see that not that much has changed there either.  In 1906 Labour got 29 MPs.  Winston Churchill, then a Liberal, denounced Labour, by whom he meant Labour Representation Commmittee candidates in Scotland at the time, as "an obscure gang of malignant wirepullers", which sounds like the Labour Group in Reading for most of its history, and many others of its ilk, and is surely a phrase, like so many of old Winston's, that would bear reuse.  There were some terrific candidates, now forgotten, like Victor Grayson, much followed by young mill girls during his election campaign, who seemed a hopeless case.  But he interrupted one of his speeches, to say "I've changed my hairstyle, ladies.  Do you like it?". He won by 153 votes.

Pugh makes much of the links between Labour and Conservatism in the early twentieth century, and refers to many candidates and MPs as "Tory-socialists", including Stafford Cripps, who joined Labour from the Tories.  He says, plausibly, that the First World War revived the links between Labour and Conservatism that "proved to be of crucial electoral importance in helping the party to adapt to the patriotism, monarchism and imperialism in the working-class communities" (p.124).  The Socialist National Defence Committee even suggested that in wartime conscientious objectors were comparable with blacklegs during a strike.  In November 1917 a group including four Tory MPs authored a document recognising the principle of state intervention in industries of national importance (p. 127).  In 1919 Labour made huge municipal gains in London, launching both Clem Attlee and Herbert Morrison on their political trajectories.  On Morrison he says "For him, Labour's route to government lay through discrediting propaganda about extremism by accepting convention and using the Establishment" (p.150).  Morrison's grandson Peter Mandelson's book 'The Third Man' reveals that the family was not close, that he did not learn political wisdom at his grandfather's knee, and that his mother, Morrison's daughter, learned of her father's death from a  newsflash.  And yet...

Pugh believes that Ramsay MacDonald was the right leader for the party at the time, and that he was convincing on foreign policy as Labour leaders have rarely been.  He doesn't think the defeat of 1924 had anything to do with the Zinoviev letter, or rather the Daily Mail story about it, but that the Tories were bound to win because they had dropped their support for protectionism.  He believes that MacDonald squeezed the Liberals so hard that they were third, and out of government, for the foreseeable future.  He was writing this book not long before the 2010 general election, and not even he, along with the rest of us, could foresee the Liberals in government, although with hindsight that, like so much in 
politics, seems inevitable.  He explodes some of the received wisdom in today's Labour circles, noting that "most Labour MPs gave little support to the General Strike and professed to regard it as doomed" (p. 206).  He reminds us that the General Strike lasted just NINE DAYS, although the miners were out for a further six months.  All this is immensely valuable stuff, and looks at Labour Party history through a different prism, and as such makes this book necessary.  However.  As we shall see.

The Labour Party was patriotic in wartime, as we have seen with the First, and this was true too in the Second.  The party moved out of the wartime coalition in October 1944 following a decision of the NEC that it would fight the coming general election alone.  The unexpected landslide followed, despite the fact that after the 1945 party conference Harold Laski wrote to Attlee, advising him of the "general view" that "the continuance of your leadership is a grave handicap to our hopes of victory in the coming election" to which Attlee replied "Thank you for your letter, contents of which have been noted." (p. 291).

Attlee was, Pugh says, probably rightly, never able to make people feel good about the government.  I can remember some of this, though Mr Churchill was back in No. 10 by the time I was born, from my own grandparents' conversations on what was for them a recent memory.

Attlee went to the country in October 1951, a bit early for a PM with a majority of six, allegedly because the King was about to tour Australia and New Zealand (for six months!) and Attlee thought there should not be a political crisis while he was gone (p. 314).  By this stage in the book I was beginning to get seriously annoyed with the author's, or his editor's, failure to use commas, sometimes to the extent of rendering some sentences and paragraphs downright confusing.  Anyway, the 1952 party conference was a bad-tempered affair, with the chairman, Sir Will Lawther, on the right of the party, trying to control the delegates by shouting "shut yer gob" at them.  How I wish I had been there.

In places the book makes references to long-ago events with a conscious effort to point up supposed parallels with today.  This, on Suez: "its long-term political impact was... limited.  The deep disillusionment it caused among many educated people gave momentum to the Liberal revival" (p. 398-9).  And in others it brings out statements and attitudes which are simply quaint - Richard Crossman, identified as on the left of the party, said in 1960 (p. 331) that Labour "should refuse in any way to come to terms with the affluent society", and Harold Wilson, responding to Gaitskell's wish to remove Clause 4, said "We were being asked to take Genesis out of the Bible". (p. 333).  Gaitskell died in January 1963.  When Harold Wilson got the leadership he said "I am running a Bolshevik revolution with a Tsarist shadow cabinet" - at least, that is what he told the left.

Some of the 1960s issues, in that decade of supposed freedom and social change, are worth remembering, as they are still close to us now.  In 1964 in Smethwick,, where Peter Griffiths, a working-class Tory (everyone called Griffiths is working class) beat Labour's posh bloke Patrick Gordon Walker, the Labour Club operated a colour bar.  I suppose it is significant that it felt it needed to.  And Wilson's support for the US, short of actually sending troops to Vietnam, he says alienated a generation of politically aware youth.  No it didn't actually.  The hippie ideals did that, sending hundreds of people if not thousands to live in tents in Wales.  In 1966 after all the Labour majority was 97.  By 1970, after In Place of Strife, ministers felt they had come through the worst.  Edwsard Heath, Pugh says, offered "a principled alternative to Wilsonian opportunism." (p.361).  That is not how I remember it.  Nor do I remember the three-day week, in December 1973, as devastating the country.  It was a damp squib, and largely unobserved in any case. Nor do I agree with Pugh that in the first 1974 election (the first general election I voted in) the voters disliked Labour but disliked Heath more.  I think they just didn't care about Labour, but they did actively dislike Heath.  Wilson kept it together despite everything at this time - probably not even Tony Blair could have done better.  Astoundingly, Pugh refers, in the same sentence (p. 367) to Wilson's "fourth election success" and to "Labour's problems unresolved".  We still see this nonsense today, as if winning elections was some kind of Bad Thing.  When Wilson resigned, a Yorkshire MP, canvassed in the Commons tea room on Roy Jenkins' behalf, said "Nay lad, we're all Labour here".

Pugh is interesting on the subject of selection and deselection of MPs.  Reg Prentice of course went Tory (having previously been supported by Robin Cook and Betty Boothroyd among others).  Sir Arthur Irvine, who had represented Liverpool Edge Hill for 30 years, was deselected and then died suddenly, causing a by-election and a Liberal victory, while the successor to Reg Prentice resigned because the local party in Newham thought him not left-wing enough and he did not want to be pushed.  It was in 1979 that party conference approved mandatory reselection of MPs, with a wave of deselections following, including such as Fred Mulley, a former cabinet minister, and Ben Ford, replaced in Bradford North by Pat Wall after "two years of intimidation and abuse" (p. 382).

And now we come to Tony Blair, who firsg emerges in this book as part of a "team of modernisers" around Neil Kinnock, first I heard of such a thing.  Tony, he says, was "lucky to win the nomination at Sedgefield" (p. 406).  Oh yeah?  He didn't work for it, lobby for it, get it stitched up, nothing like that?  Just lucky?  Sigh.  Pugh is not exactly la Blairite.  He doesn't have to be of course.  But, Lord save us "President Bush's war" (p. 421)?  He even insults the readers by saying the Tories would have won in 2005 if they had opposed the Iraq war.  How exactly?  The vast majority of Tory MPs supported and voted for the war (as I did, with some pride, in case you wer wondering) and would have been seen as turncoats, hypocrites or worse, but in any case, in 2005, after the war, and with Tony as prime minister, there was a Labour majority of 66.  Get out of that one.

So, an entertaining read most of the time, a readable gallop through Labour Party history, and completely wrong on present-day British politics.  7/10, could do better.


Friday, 3 September 2010

you'll have had your tea

I am currently sharing an office with a person from Edinburgh who speaks in that way, and I am getting used to the accent.  I doubt I will ever be able to reproduce it though.  Linguists cannot usually mimic, and vice versa, for reasons unknown to me.  Regular readers will also know that I am "accro" (an addict) of the weekday soap "Plus Belle La Vie" set around a "quartier" of Marseille.  Currently there is a hilarious storyline which, in sum, involves a home-swap holiday which has brought a Scottish couple to stay in the quartier for a week.  They are allegedly from Edinburgh, although the wife is quite clearly English (red hair does not a Scot make) and the husband sounds like Glasgow to my ears.  They are called Ray and Maureen Murray.You'd think they could have found two actors who could do Edinburgh, not that many viewers are going to be able to tell.  They speak far better and more idiomatic French than an actual Scottish couple like them would do, but they speak English to each other, and the man is prone to irascible outbursts in it, to no-one in particular, usually when he is offered some local speciality to eat.  It is very unusual to hear this much of any foreign language in a mainstream broadcast, as no doubt it would be in the UK too, and I suspect only PBLV, with its many millions of viewers and its established place in francophone popular culture (it is also shown in Belgium, Switzerland and Quebec) can get away with it.  One of  Ray Murray's outbursts last night involved (at about 8.15 pm) the words "For fuck's sake!" The Murrays are of course subtitled when they speak English, and the subtitle for this was "Pour pitie!" (approximately "for pity's sake").  Language at that level is no more allowed in France on terrestrial TV at this time in the evening than it would be in the UK (although in respect of nudity and anything sexual much more is allowed in France - there have been storylines in PBLV where I haven't quite known where to look) and it struck me that if this is OK in English does it happen with other languages?  Culturally interesting to me anyway.  It is my dream to appear in an episode of PBLV, and now I know they let Anglos in - well, Mr Producer, if you're reading...

a client state

Reading borough has this status vis-a-vis Wokingham, according to the latter.  The Reading Labour boys and Zim One thought this was just fine and stumped up their annual tribute in the form of the town's sons and daughters, rather like, for those who know their Greek mythology (I got mine from the books of  Mary Renault, such as The King Must Die: A Novel) the tribute paid by the Greeks to Crete, namely young boys and girls sent to fight the bulls there for the amusement of the mighty.  The council today, under different control, is likely to take a different view - hein?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

a new low?

Gordon McMillan, posting at Harry's Place, says the coverage of what we might, or might not, call Myersgate or Haguegate, has reached a new low. He blames Guido for this, which I do not. Guido does what Guido does, because he can, and I think Iain Dale is wrong to be outraged (ahem) by Guido for apparently setting off the whole story, prompting Hague to issue a very personal statement,published in many places today, saying that he and Ffion are happily married and would like to have a family but have not been successful. Hague goes on to say that he has never had a relationship with a man. Well, OK, William, if you say so, quite frankly it is none of any of our business. What was a new low for me (I have not been watching much UK mainstream media lately as our satellite reception is v. poor most of the time) was this morning's report on Sky, which reproduced the statement pretty much in full, mentioning from time to time that it had no foundation - apparently - and concluding by saying that if anything did come out (ahem) in the future which substantiated the story then William Hague's political career would be over. Well, I imagine it would, because he would be seen to have lied - hein?

Shame on you Sky. If the story has no foundation then don't reproduce it. Shame.

I was talking though yesterday with a gay (male and Scottish) friend, who says that politicians should be outed, and without scruple. Hmmm.