Wednesday, 31 March 2010

John Marek

is someone I knew slightly when he was in the Commons, we worked on a few things together, I found him enigmatic.  Now he has left Labour and joined the Tories, we are told (I thought he left Labour quite a long time ago), Oliver Kamm reminds us that in the mid-1990s he was one of two Labour members of the committee for the Crossrail Bill who helped bring Crossrail down.  If I had known that I would have challenged him when we were colleagues.  The Crossrail scheme is of course now being built, one of the achievements of a Labour government I would have said, not so sure now.  Anyone hoping to be elected to Reading Borough Council might consider, and if elected might wish to take action on, establishing how and and why Reading Borough Council dropped its support for Crossrail with a western terminus at Reading.  If you find the correspondence hard to get hold of, not to worry, I have copies of all of it.  For shame, Howarth. 

Mr Salter's much-trumpeted support for Crossrail to Reading did not extend to actually voting for that when the opportunity was there in July 2005.  He abstained.  Just as he did on Iraq.

troughing in the Commons

After years and years of sneering at anyone who had dinner in the House of Commons, or invited anyone else to have dinner there, Mr Salter has finally admitted to eating dinner in the Commons.  Good for him for coming clean at last.  He did not, of course, pay for his own dinner.  That would be going too far.  Not a particularly diverse group of guests, is it?  And why is Mr S the only one not wearing a jacket?

Mr S informs us on his website (so it must be true) that he is going to Australia and New Zealand for some months once he receives his 65K payout.  Another source tells me he is going to spend some time in Sydney as the guest of former Reading councillor and chair of Reading Labour Party Mike Price, who left Reading in 2000 and fled to Australia ahead of a scandal that threatened to engulf him and those close to him.  Picture the scene - a cosy chat over the Price dinner table, spliffs smouldering in the ashtray, reminiscing about the dear dead days beyond  recall.  The headlines in the Reading Evening Post, and, er, the headlines in the Reading Evening Post.  These we have loved.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I hesitated

and I am not a fan of Russia's successive governments, nor of its strategies on Chechnya, but isn't it time, now that this has happened on the Moscow metro, to engage with Russia and try to help it deal with this situation?


just when you thought the costumes couldn't get any crazier, here is Gaga again, on repeat on my iPod I can tell you.  Gaga and Beyonce in a women's prison, female guards pumping iron, butch female crims - er, it's all a bit what we used to call sensible shoes, isn't it?  But the shoes in this video are not remotely sensible, I promise.
update:  tickets for her concert in Strasbourg on 25th May sold out in 20 minutes this morning - at 95 euros a pop.

showgirls and the Mafia

I do not get Silvio Berlusconi.  The above is what he seems mostly to be about, and what is possibly worse, he keeps taking time off from politics to have cosmetic surgery.  Seems like a buffoon to me, but a buffoon who owns the Italian media.  And now his party sweeps the board in the Italian regional elections just held.  I do not know Italy or Italian politics very well, and sadly cannot yet speak the language, which is so beautiful to hear, but, well, there's  nowt so queer as the electorate sometimes. 

Monday, 29 March 2010


the lazy, disreputable councillor Jon Hartley has been sacked from a religious education body for not bothering to turn up to its meetings.  It's in the Reading Evening Post, so it must be true.  The person in charge of this body, SACRE, one Rabbi Zvi Solomons, is not happy.  Not happy at all.  Oh dear no.  You'd need to have a heart of stone to read of the humiliation of Cllr Hartley without laughing.

Oh and he can't be bothered to pay his car tax either.  Cllr Hartley not Rabbi Solomons.

I saw this for the first time today

and I think it is crass.  As I don't live in the UK I am probably a bit late in seeing it, but I have seen no comment about it either.  Whatever are they thinking of?

makes you think

Cllr Richard Willis posts here about the deselection of Anne Moffat MP and the reports that she is planning to sue the Labour Party, and makes a comparison with my own experience, rightly, because the bullying, undermining, rumour-mongering and intimidation that Anne and her friends and supporters have suffered appear to be very similar to my own experience.  I have posted previously about what Anne has gone through, and some of the comments from those closer to the Scottish experience than I am bear this out.  Sadly this kind of behaviour is not at all uncommon in the Labour Party, and female elected representatives and to some extent those from ethnic minorities are far more likely to be the targets for it than others are.  The Reading Labour Party is rather good at this, and CllrWillis rightly highlights the bullying behaviour consistently engaged in by its leadership (I was not the only one to be their target, by a long way) and especially the disgraceful behaviour of its leadership towards a then Labour councillor (who happens to be from an ethnic minority though Cllr Willis does not mention this) who was bullied into crossing the floor with a campaign of smears and ugly allegations, never substantiated, which arguably triggered the departure of another Labour councillor from the party and cost the then leader of the council his seat.  If this last is true, and I have been told that it is, then I take my hat off to the electors of Katesgrove for showing their contempt for such abuse of office.  David Sutton should never be allowed to hold public office again. 

Anne may have a better legal case against the Labour Party than I had.  She was deselected following a vote of no confidence, at a meeting packed with those working against her, with no opportunity for the wider party membership to vote.  I was told by the national party when I was fighting this same situation that such a vote, which was being campaigned for by the then chair of Reading Labour Party, Andrew Pegg of 9 Eastern Avenue Reading, would not be tolerated.  A deselection would have to be the result of a ballot of the whole party membership.  Which  it was.  The chair of Reading Labour Party in 2004, Stuart Singleton-White, the fraudster's friend, spent a lot of time canvassing the party membership in support of a deselection, telling members "If you can't vote for Tony Page, stay away". Singleton-White was rewarded for this by the Reading Labour leadership with a lucrative position on the board of Reading Buses.

Cllr Willis is right to point up what Reading Labour Party are capable of.  He doesn't mention the leadership's use of hired thugs to beat up a Conservative candidate outside a mosque or its corrupt misuse of council funds and facilities to support its electoral effort, or its use of council funds and vehicles to promote the election of Martin Salter in 2001 and 2005.  He doesn't need to.  These things are well known, and as the electorate of Katesgrove showed, attract widespread public disgust.

In the name of God, go.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

it's all kicking off

speeches from party leaders, blah, blah, blah, others will comment better than I can, here we go two three four, oops that is the beginning of a song which has as part of its refrain "Gordon Is A Moron".  Except that in the song ("Jilted John" by Jilted John, sometime around 1978, do try and keep up) Gordon is the character who is cool and trendy and gets the girl and is the winner and goes around laughing at the loser who tries to outdo him.  Hmmm.

At election time I am always interested, not in the Westminster village or equivalent, but in what other media do.  In 2001, after the UK election, I went to Australia for a four-week visit (a private one) and they were in election campaign there.  The Labor (their spelling) leader in opposition was Kim Beazley.  Australia has a Labor government now.  Anyway, Kim B was featured in a women's magazine in an article titled "The Women Who Love Kim Beazley" which I thought was great campaigning, and that all political leaders campaigning for election should try to place that kind of story.  It was the kind of article women would show their husbands.  I remember talking to Alastair Campbell about it later.  There was another piece about Kim, in a men's magazine mainly about large pieces of DIY equipment and garden machinery, which Australian men seem to love, but with irony (there is a chain of shops selling things like lawnmowers and leaf blowers and power saws called "A Man's Toyshop") but I digress.  It is important to reach people who do not read articles about politics.  Then the response is real.

The latest edition of UK Marie-Claire has an article about an award  called "Empowering Women", associated with survival of domestic violence and linked to Women's Aid, of which Sarah Brown is one of the judges.  I do not suppose the Kevin Maguires of this world think stuff like this is important, because it is only GIRLS who suffer domestic violence.  But I am glad Sarah Brown is doing this.  And the truths about domestic violence are several.  The utterly vast majority of it is perpetrated by men upon women.  But women do perpetrate it upon men - I have seen it myself.  And the man's reaction I witnessed was exactly as a woman's reaction usually is when hit - I know from personal experience.  There is a significant level of concern about domestic violence within lesbian couples.  And gay male couples do not seem to understand it as a concept.  So - the diversity of humanity.

Sarah Brown, I think you are good news.  I am sorry you and Gordon lost a child, I lost one too but your loss was worse than mine.  I am sorry your second son has cystic fibrosis and I hope all concerned can help him to stay well.  I am sure you know Sarah, but it is not generally known, that boys who survive past puberty with cystic fibrosis (and most do these days) are infertile.  The condition means that effectively you are born with a vasectomy.  I know this from a former constituent who had cystic fibrosis and had survived into his 40s (two sisters had died in their teens), and not unreasonably wanted a family.

In these days when it is very unusual to lose a child, both the party leaders hoping to be Prime Minster have had that experience.  It is something which is not supposed to happen.  My father died young, before both his parents, and they were never the same again.  But he made it to adulthood - obviously.

Let's try to have this UK election with a little less ugliness and a little more humanity, hein?

Friday, 26 March 2010

game or coarse?

The leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, has been interviewed in Angling Times and has said he supports angling and that the rod licence is likely to be retained.  No surprises there.  He wasn't asked whether "East Europeans" were responsible for the decline in fish stocks in England's rivers, as Mr Salter has so often informed us they are, more's the pity, I would have been interested to see his response.  The boat-owning part-time MP Martin Salter, who does not put in a full day in the House because he feels the need to spend part of it in Reading doing clerical work in his constituency office and photocalls in Reading East, did however put in a welcome and rare appearance in the House, the response to which however was

Does the Minister agree that the hon. Member for Reading, West, should not be playing cheap politics with anglers in this country?

And so say all of us.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

thoughts on humanitarian intervention

have been expressed by my intellectual hero (one of them), Norman Geras, read them here, in response to a curious article by Mark Mazower.  You might agree.  You might not.  You might find it makes you think.  You might turn back to your copy of the Guardian with a contemptuous sneer.  You might even wonder why it was thought a matter of such urgency to create international legal human rights norms after the Second World War, and why those rights are now thought  to be relative and not universal by most of the so-called left and intellectuals in much of Europe and north America.  Or you might not care.  Something that occurs to me in this context.  Here in Europe, in the European Union, Roma women have to give birth in what are called "Gypsy Rooms" in hospitals, and are routinely sterilised there without their knowledge and against their will.  This happens in Slovakia.  Is it OK? And if not then what?

support the Caracas One!

this weekend there are expected to be mass rallies in London and other major cities in support of the opposition politician jailed for "crimes of opinion" in Venezuela.  Freedom of speech will be marched for.  Left politicians and thinkers will mobilise and will write letters to the Guardian in support of the cherished values of international solidarity.

You do know I made this up, don't you readers?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

full-time work is what we want!

there has been some talk recently about MPs working part-time, and some have said that being an MP is a full-time job and no MPs should be allowed to do anything else.  I disagree.  Although when I was an MP I did not do any other work, for me it was a full-time job representing a (fairly) marginal seat and playing, of course, a full part in the work of the House as a parliamentarian.  I believe MPs should be able to do other work if they wish and feel they have the time, but that they should declare publicly what it is they do.  It is quite easy to have an office set up so that they amount of clerical work an MP has to do is minimal.  It is certainly lnot necessary to visit the constituency office every day and hold the hands of the staff there.  If competent staff are appointed and appropriate systems set up it is OK for the MP to turn up on a Friday to sign his or her letters and nothing more, other than the usual constituency visits and events of course.  Do readers agree? 

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

so it goes

a correspondent writes re the deselection of Anne Moffat MP:

The NEC has just confirmed its support for the decision of the East Lothian CLP to de-select Anne Moffat.
She is now officially de-selected.
The official statement said that her 'style' and 'manner of carrying out her duties' was disliked.
Anne has described the de-selection as the worst experience of her whole life. She has said that she is extremely angry and is considering the possibility of taking legal action against the Labour Party.
The NEC is imposing an all woman shortlist and has lined up a 26 year old parliamentary researcher to act as the Barbie or the Sindy - or whatever is now deemed by the NEC, to be the appropriate role of a female Labour MP.

public impact, a public apology

er, don't hold your breath. Was has posted saying that the writer/s of the Reading East Banner ought to make a public apology to the geographically-challenged Cllr Daisy Benson. I think Public Impact, who are still the publishers of that organ, should apologise anyway, for their lies, incompetence and sheer utter crapness. However, I have not seen the publication Was refers to so I have no idea what they said about the pulchritudinous Daisy. Would love to know. Was, quite correctly, refers to the "dead hand" of the Reading Labour boys. Also correctly, he refers in this connection to the comment about himself attributed to former Cllr Dictatorship Dave Sutton which included "who's only contribution". Former Cllr Sutton may well be, and is, a liar who connived at bullying and corruption during his time as council leader, but he can read and write, and spell. Which former Cllr Howarth, prop. Public Impact Ltd (remember "Your Better Off With Labour"?) cannot.

Your witness.

update: Daisy is polite though:

Hi Jane,

Thanks for pointing out the typo on our blog - I've now corrected it.Best wishes

Cllr Daisy BensonLiberal Democrat CouncillorRedlands ward

which celebrity do you really, really - meme

I have been tagged by dazmando (Bracknell Blog) on the "which celebrity do you really, really hate?" meme, so here, obviously, is a picture of "journalist" Kevin Maguire. But he is not a celebrity as such. Celebrities are people who are famous not for anything they have done but because of who they are, and I don't really hate any of them, because I can't be bothered to. But journalists are not accountable to anyone, and yet they tell us all what we should think, and otherwise apparently intelligent people quote what they say as if it is the truth. And I hate that. Now tagging Flashing Blade, Adrian Windisch and Was (of whose recent post more in due course).

how to be topp

Ronald Searle, who drew the wonderful Molesworth (and St Trinian's), is still alive and living in France, as any fule kno. There is an exhibition of his work in London, long overdue, as is a knighthood. Happy 90th birthday Mr Searle. Draw us some more pictures.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

the inevitable happens

I posted last month about Anne Moffat MP and the attempts to deselect her. It looks like they have succeeded. The party nationally declined to step in and help, and she blames a sustained campaign of bullying within her constituency party. But that doesn't happen, does it boys?

Happy now one and all?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Hansard can be fun

for this reason (the MPs' interjections):

Mr. Jenkin: Order!
Mr. Speaker: Order. I do not need any help from the hon. Gentleman. I have the greatest affection for him, but he should not tell me how to do my job. He is a very able fellow, but I am not sure he would know where to start. What I want to-[Hon. Members: "Ooh!"] I am not sure he would.

and for this, because what is said in the House is without spin:

Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Monday 1 March, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary visited my Reading, East constituency. Neither contacted me, but the Prime Minister's office did inform the press, the council, the police and the neighbouring Labour MP. I seek your guidance first about whether that lack of courtesy is acceptable.

and for the reply, which shows that despite the spin that Salter got Speaker Bercow his job (he didn't), the debt that Speaker Bercow may or may not feel he owes Salter does not extend to spitting on the conventions of the House:

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) raised the subject of the normal courtesy of notifying a Member whose constituency one is visiting on public business. I say to him that I think that it is very desirable that that courtesy should always be observed, and that it is regrettable when it is not.

I have no idea whether Speaker Bercow knew that the PM genuinely thought he was visiting Reading West, because Salter had told him so.

He does now.

as you can see I am in frivolous mode this week

some bloke has, you guessed it, been taking Polaroid photographs of dogs wearing Lady Gaga costumes. This was my personal favourite. In the category of things you never thought you needed to see.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

where is this?

I do love the Sartorialist. He puts a caption under his pictures telling you where they were taken, usually just "New York" or "Paris" etc. But with this one I don't think he needed to bother. Can you guess what country this man is in?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Martin goes to Reading

East of course. Hilarious picture, hein?

smash the middle-class welfare state!

Chris Patten is on the money today. He says the "preposterous" cap on university tuition fees should be removed, and he is right. I do not see why a student should be subsidised in this way (bursaries for low-income students and to increase equality of opportunity are quite another matter) and why fees should be considerably less than my daughter (who earns £22,000 a year in London) pays for the nursery my granddaughter attends. I remember a conversation with a father of two teenage sons, the older about to go to Oxford and the younger expected to follow; the father told me he was "mightily relieved" only to have to pay £3,000 in fees for each of them - he would have to support them for food and accommodation whatever the level of fees, and he had been paying at least £30,000 a year in school fees. He couldn't see why he should get that level of subsidy from the taxpayer given his affluence, though he was glad to accept it, and neither could I.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

get out of that one


Robert Wilson: To ask the Prime Minister (1) when he informed the hon.Member for Reading West of his visit to Reading on 1 March 2010; (2) when he informed Reading borough council of his visit to Reading on 1March 2010; (3) when he informed Thames Valley police of his visit toReading on 1 March 2010.

and it is not even Gordon's fault. He was lied to and told his visit was to Reading West. Civil servants don't check these things because it never occurs to them that they would be lied to by an honourable member. All of Gordon's visit was to Reading East as far as I can tell - Nasty Naz put "Reading" on his site, and said nothing about any visit to Reading West; Salter ditto; and the only pictures seen were taken in Reading East; Salter even mentioned the locations, all of them in Reading East. Salter was specifically invited to the event, which the PM could do if he wanted and was legitimate, but the constituency MP was not even informed. Which is not legitimate. After all these years I still get a red mist about this. I can recall that the Modernisation Committee met in Reading in 2004, and when I saw the papers for it a few days before the event I rang the committee clerks and asked if they normally informed the constituency member if the committee was meeting in their constituency, and they said that they did, as a matter of course. I told them that I hadn't received my letter, as the meeting was (inevitably) at the Civic Offices, in Reading East. There was a slight silence, and I received my letter the following day. The meeting took place in Reading at Salter's instigation. When Michael Portillo visited Reading some years ago his office wrote to me as is the normal courtesy, because it was Reading East he was visiting, but when Salter found out (via the Evening Post's regular briefing to him on their forthcoming stories) he arranged a welcoming committee without consulting me, and I heard him shout in Michael Portillo's face, outside the Broad Street Mall (in Reading East) "You're in my constituency!" I apologised later to Michael of course for the juvenile thuggish behaviour he had to experience.

This behaviour is a disgrace. It will stop when Salter is gone, because it is pathological. No other MP does this. No matter what the relations between constituency neighbours are like, and believe you me they are not always good, in whatever party.

But lying to the Prime Minister and placing his own government in an embarrassing position, who could possibly gain by that?


I see.

update: here is Gordon's answer. Piss poor.

Gordon Brown (Prime Minister; Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, Labour)
For security reasons, my engagements are announced as and when appropriate

Monday, 15 March 2010

Ashok Kumar MP

has died "suddenly and accidentally" at home. I knew Ashok, we were not close personally but we were together on a trip to Botswana I think it was and we had some long chats. I found him personable and good company. He talked about his work before he went into Parliament for Black Sections within the Labour Party and he told me he was against ethnic minority short lists for selection, pointing out that his constituency on Teesside was one of the whitest in the country, but that the party had had no problem selecting him, nor had the Labour vote diminished as a result. I have no idea what kind of accident it was, or what his personal or family situation was, but I am very sorry. We are too close to the general election now for there to be a by-election, but, oh dear. Just wait for the poison mongers to start. They always do. Ashok was only 53.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

your quote for today

"...attending to his constituency post, which meant writing instructions in pencil on top of his constituents' letters and sending them on to his Shropshire-based secretary. She was as skilled as he was. Letters complaining about the poll tax were sent to the Department of the Environment, letters about dogs and their dirt to the Home Office and letters urging that Maggie should return on to the Prime Minister's Office. Eventually replies would come, to which Joshua would add his congratulations or commiseration. MPs were post offices whose task it was to distribute complaints among those who ostensibly, at least, had the power to remedy injustice and right wrongs. It had long been Joshua's view that the backbench Tory MP was the lowest form of political life. Harold Macmillan had once said that the only quality needed by an MP was the ability to write a good letter."

this appears on page 180 of a book recently lent me by a Strasbourg-based friend. I do not ask people to guess who wrote it although the context dates it clearly to the early 1990s. It presents one view of what an MP does, and sadly too many do still operate like that, which is why they have 22,000 paper files and precious little action to show for it. The book itself is a preposterous romp set in the House of Commons, it is called Hung Parliament and was written by the late Julian Critchley MP. Some real people appear in it and some are invented, and there is a murder in the Commons.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

the end of the party

is, as any fule kno, the title of the book by Andrew Rawnsley which has caused something of a stir among the UK political class, though not among many others. Those who are non-political and who have picked up the reports of, for example, Gordon Brown's dysfunctional behaviour, will not have felt they were being told anything they did not already know. However, I have just finished reading it. Unlike some journalists, who skimmed the juicy bits of it, I have read it all and looked at the index and the footnotes too. So there. And do you know, it is a cracking good read. Really exciting in parts. Even though we know what happens. I always admired Andrew Rawnsley as a journalist because, unlike Alastair Campbell for example, he can write and he can tell a story as well as knowing what goes on. And one of the things I liked about the book, apart from the story-telling, was that all of it (or nearly all) is based on what people who are and were there actually did and said, quite a lot of it to or in the hearing of Andrew Rawnsley himself. He does editorialise a bit, which I will come to.
Rawnsley is on the money from the introduction on: "the master consensualist of the first term became the driven lone warrior of the second" although he doesn't continue and say that Tony Blair was always both those things, that was rather the point. I didn't realise it myself until about 2000, if I had understood it earlier I would have voted for him (Tony Blair not Andrew Rawnsley) as leader in 1994 (I voted for John Prescott). Some of the best quotes are the anonymous ones, this on Peter Mandelson's career: "Even Jesus Christ was resurrected only once", though not all are anonymous, Tony Blair to Alan Milburn, "The job of being Labour leader is to save the Labour Party from itself". True, but Tony didn't manage it, when they saw him having a go they kicked him out, and now the death wish is back.

The book is riveting on 9/11 and Tony's certainty and purpose in the time that followed. Why did so few understand what Russia's position would be - "Vladimir Putin of Russia, believing that signing up for a 'war against terror' would legitimise his brutal campaign agains the rebels in Chechnya, was declaring his solidarity" (p.37).

Fast forward a bit to Conference 2001, and perhaps we hadn't noticed, or perhaps we didn't want to think, about how much the Guardianistas had influenced the party, Rawnsley quotes Tony's speech "the starving the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, they are our causes too". Too? Too? I can remember being told by a Reading East party member, John Oversby, that I was focusing too much on the disadvantaged and "people on council estates" and that the party expected more emphasis on "middle-class concerns". Ah I see. Stuff like university fees, otherwise known as the middle-class welfare state, benefits for the few and stuff the many. Silly old me. Where was I? Ah yes.

When Gordon and Sarah Brown lost their baby daughter Jennifer Jane in 2002 (I've still got a picture of her that Gordon sent me after I wrote to him in sympathy) Gordon afterwards thought and told people, according to Rawnsley, that little Leo's pram outside the door of the Blairs' flat at No. 11 was meant to be cruel (p. 72). Rawnsley does not extrapolate a scenario from this, but either Gordon had paranoia (possible) or he was right and the Blairs did it deliberately , instead of just needing somewhere to put the pushchair because they lived in a London flat. Both could be true of course, but fascinating,hein?

Sometimes Rawnsley slips a little bit. Westminster journalists usually seem to think that constituencies don't matter, but in the UK single-member first-past-the-post system they very much do. UK democracy depends on the MP representing their constituents, and only theirs. He says "Michael Wills, the Labour MP for Swindon" (p. 74). There are two constituencies in Swindon, both represented at the time of writing by Labour MPs. The other one is represented by former Berkshire county councillor Anne Snelgrove, who took the seat after Julia Drown stood down for South Swindon. But they are both just girls.

Rawnsley reminds us that in the 2002 budget huge sums were announced for the NHS, to be paid for by increased National Insurance contributions, and that not one Tory stood up to object. NI increases are against Tory philosophy, and were not sustainable for an economy whose boom was already over, though no-one seemed to have noticed, if they had objected they would have been proved right now.

In 1998, when we already had a Labour government in the UK and Bill Clinton was in the White House, Operation Desert Fox sent troops into Iraq, including British ones. Where were the Guardian readers then? I heard from them on a regular basis at the time about various matters, and not a word. Rawnsley does not note this, I do. Not long afterwards Tony Blair made his keynote speech in Chicago, on liberal interventionism, which was not much noticed at the time but set out a doctrine for the world in the twenty-first century which at the very least is clear and unambiguous.

But Rawnsley goes back to the predictable before too long. "A big majority of the country were against war" (p. 107, citing an interview with pollster Stan Greenberg but citing no polling). I was knocking doors on a regular basis at the time, and my door knocks did not show that at all. About one in 10 people mentioned Iraq unprompted, in leafy Guardian-reading areas just as on council estates, and of those who did mention it about half were in favour and half against a war. On the actual parliamentary vote on Iraq (still the only time Parliament has been consulted about military action) Rawnsley lets the Big Lie, namely that 139 Labour MPs voted against the war, go unchallenged. There was a vote in 2003 on an amendment tabled by Chris Smith MP, followed by a vote on a government motion, which did not even say "War Now", it said this:


    That this House takes note of Command Paper Cm 5769 on Iraq; reaffirms its endorsement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, as expressed in its Resolution of 25th November 2002; supports the Government's continuing efforts in the United Nations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction; and calls upon Iraq to recognise this as its final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.

(I voted for it since you ask). The result, as recorded in Hansard, was Ayes 434, Noes 124. There are Labour MPs walking around to this day who say they voted against the war when their names do not appear in the Noes column on this vote. The whips' line was "Save Tony by abstaining", and many complied, I think Rawnsley should have looked a bit closer.

Still on Iraq, Rawnsley is most interesting on his interviews with the military, from whom most of us did not hear much. He quotes Admiral Michael Boyce as saying "WMD was the whole rationale for the invasion" (p. 176). Boyce can't really have believed that, can he? Tony never said that. No-one so senior in the military could have been so out of touch. Could they?

Rawnsley suggests that Alastair Campbell's fury with the BBC over the Andrew Gilligan broadcast was a sign, not of government's usual tensions with the BBC, especially on this occasion, when the BBC had gone too far and allowed an unsubstantiated serious slur on air, but of Campbell's mental instability. He refers uncritically to "the cynical outing of David Kelly": Kelly outed himself by coming forward, even if he was too naive to realise that he was doing so. Kelly also lied to the Foreign Affairs Committee about being the source for the Susan Watts report, a lie which would, unsurprisingly, prey on his mind. Jonathan Oliver, then of the Mail on Sunday, thereby had the opportunity to ask Tony "Have you got blood on your hands?" Rawnsley thought the conclusion of the Hutton inquiry was wrong. I don't. It remains a fact that Kelly outed himself, for reasons we will never know, and later killed himself. If anyone is culpable it it is Andrew Gilligan, who retains a comfortable career in journalism, and his then bosses at the BBC.

Rawnsley does place events in useful contexts, and the book adds to the sum of historical knowledge for that reason alone, such as Tony going to the USA in the aftermath of the US Marines' assault on Fallujah in Iraq. Tony had always cited the "Israel/Palestine road map" as evidence of his influence over Bush. Ariel Sharon had been at the White House the previous day and had got Bush's support for what Rawnsley editorialises was a "unilateral and aggressive" plan (p. 253) to build a security fence which would "annexe a big chunk of Palestinian land on the West Bank" so that Tony "felt compelled" to support the Sharon plan. Worth being reminded of when these things happened (though given the lack of year references in the chapters it is sometimes hard to remember which year we are in) despite the loaded language - maybe Tony actually meant what he said on Israel? Just maybe?

One disgraceful piece of editorialising by Rawnsley was about the pictures of US troops abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib - the Daily Mirror published faked pictures of British troops doing the same and its then editor Piers Morgan had to resign as a result - but Rawnsley goes straight on from mentioning the Morgan resignation and the faked pictures to say "In any case, there was nothing fake about the terrible evidence of abuse at Abu Ghraib" (p. 260). So that's all right then. Michael Jay said, according to Rawnsley, "You have to conduct foreign policy in accordance with the values you espouse. If you don't do that, you lose an enormous amount of moral authority" (p. 261). But I wonder if moral authority is a basis for the conduct of foreign policy anyway. Rawnsley does not pursue this further.

He does say that Tony's politics was "bent out of shape" by Iraq (p. 271). I would agree, but for different reasons.

Moving on, he says "In August 2004, the Democrats nominated Senator John Kerry as their candidate to take on Bush in the November presidential elections. The Labour Party, in common with the vast majority of Britons, was rooting for Kerry" (p. 271). Where had Rawnsley been? The vast majority of Britons had never heard of John Kerry, and have not to this day, neither had most of the Labour Party. Maybe we know he has great hair. Not much more. US politicians blur into one for most Britons, including politicians - I once heard Labour MP Martin Salter refer, also in 2004, to an initiative by "the Clinton-Dean people". Eh?

Poor David Blunkett. I think he is missed in government. He always impressed me, despite calling me "love". When he got into difficulties with his girlfriend's nanny's visa "the Cabinet Secretary thought that what Blunkett should have done was send the nanny to her constituency MP for help with the visa" (p. 286). What interests me about that statement, which I am fascinated to know was made, is why no politician thought of doing that, quite obviously the right thing to do, several times I had sensitive cases referred to me by cabinet ministers who had some personal connection but could refer it to me because the person lived in my constituency, but it was the civil servant who thought of it this time. Strange.

A phrase I had not heard until I read this book, perhaps because I campaigned only for the last three days of the 2005 election campaign" "The person Blair was running against was himself". Hmmm. Discuss.

The UK won the Olympic bid for 2012 because of Tony, and a quote I missed at the time came from Bertrand Delanoe, mayor of Paris and sometime contender for leader of the Parti Socialiste in France (he lost to Martine Aubry I am glad to say), according to Duncan Campbell (remember him?) in the Observer "We should have gone to war like the British did". I do not know if Delanoe can speak English, and I can find no reference to this quote anywhere on his website or archive. However.

Now you're getting it, Andrew Rawnsley: (on the 7/7 attacks) "the truth was that al-Qaeda had been committing atrocities long before the toppling of the Taliban and the invasion of Iraq, but emotion was more powerful than chronology for many of Blair's critics" (p. 336).

There is unthinking misogyny which it seems almost unfair to point out:

"Brown waved Thatcher's blood-stained, tear-smeared shroud: (p. 369). Think about it.

There is some sneering at brown-skin Arabs doing it for themselves too: Iraq's "optimistically named National Unity Government" (p. 375).

Frank Field MP, nice bloke, not usually a friend to the Labour or any other government, told Tony "You can't let Mrs Rochester out of the attic" re handing over to Gordon. Hilarious.

"Public trust and party support for him bled away with every returning bodybag from Iraq and Afghanistan." (p. 407). Rubbish. No evidence.

But Rawnsley is excellent on the Brown takeover, noting that first his staff, and then the political class, understand that he is at least as much a spinner as Tony, and he gets away with it at first (p. 477). "The era was epitomised by the diamond-encrusted skull manufactured by Damien Hirst. This grotesque was a classic sign of a bubble about to burst." (p. 482). Oh yeah? How can a "classic sign" be identified? This is lazy stuff, and nasty sometimes, as "when Tony Blair stood down as an MP to spend more time with his money" (p. 497).

I was interested to see that the Henley byelection, when Boris Johnson stood down to become Mayor of London, made the cut too, one of the rare ventures outside Westminster, though without naming the Labour candidate (Richard McKenzie of Reading East, since you ask) and just saying Labour came "an awful fifth".

Prepositions are never easy in English, but "Brown did not take offence to this intervention? (p. 554)

Nice descriptive language too, Angela Merkel is "solid, shrewd and unshowy" while Nicolas Sarkozy is "mercurial and flamboyant" (p. 626). Rawnsley gives good anecdote too: at the G20 the Czech Prime Minister, Miroslav Topolanek, attacked America, pissing off Sarkozy, who thought attacking America was his job, and later Topolanek said that he had only done it because he had been listening to "Bat Out Of Hell" by Meatloaf the previous night (p. 630).

Rawnsley does not go anywhere near the constituency party issue, usually a nightmare for MPs, or hardly does: Barry Sheerman MP said that when he called for a leadership ballot the party centrally started mixing it in his constituency. At the PLP, according to Rawnsley, Geraldine Smith MP said she "found herself falling in love with Peter Mandelson", upon which Mandy, now back in government and joined at the hip with Gordon as they had been long ago, in the dear dead days BT (Before Tony) and standing at the back of the room behind Gordon (who can hardly see anyway) blew her a kiss. Yuck. But probably true. I could picture the scene anyway.

There are moments where I just do not know what Rawnsley is on about: "A central characteristic of New Labour had been its absolute appetite for power, the burning conviction that there was nothing to be said for the impotence of Opposition" (p. 678). But party members, and many supporters, had long cherished Opposition for ideological purity reasons. Rawnsley should have known that. So what indeed was he on?

He ends the book in characteristically over-the-top fashion: the last party conference before the election, ie the 2009 event, closed with "The Red Flag" and "Jerusalem" to the accompaniment of a violin, but why on earth should it not, and he concludes with the words "the feeling that the light was failing on a project that once had the world at its feet". What bollocks. Though you could see what he was trying to do. The fading of the zeitgeist and all that.

But I carp, and I nitpick. Well, it is such fun to do so. It is an excellent read if you were there or interested in the time, and of course, as we must remind ourselves, Gordon Brown remains Prime Minister at the time of writing. So it ain't over yet.

Read the book. History as it was made.

paper files?

in the 21st century? Surely not. But no. Mr Salter, perhaps unwittingly, lets slip that he files his casework on paper:

I’m beginning to realise what a huge job it will be to wind up both my Westminster and constituency offices. All recent correspondents have been sent a standard letter asking what they want me to do with their case files. With over 22,000 individual files in the constituency office alone, we are going to be keeping the shredding company in work for some time to come. I’ve also just rented a storage unit to archive that which is either cherished, not collected, or unshredded so spent the afternoon humping boxes around. Reminded me of my days as a cargo handler at Heathrow.

I don't think I had paper files after about 2000. It's quite easy to scan in letters and file them electronically. We used to do this and then shred the paper ones as we went, made closing up the office really quite easy. Still, each to their own - but Mr S also lets slip that he is keeping some of his casework and storing it in a rental storage unit. I am not even sure if this is legal. And the question would be, why? An ongoing cost, paid by whom? And the material to be put to what use? For the last year before I stood down from Parliament I sent a standard letter to every constituent who contacted me, saying that I would return their case file to them if they wished me to, or pass it on to my successor if they wished, and that if I did not hear I would destroy the files. Two people said they wanted their file passed on if my successor was Labour. Well, that didn't happen, obviously. Another four said they wanted their file passed on to my successor, full stop. So I was invited to a very pleasant tea in the Pugin Room by my successor, Rob Wilson MP, where I ceremonially handed the four files over to him.

Anyway, if you live in Reading West and you have contacted your MP since 1997, be warned. It could be your piece of confidential correspondence found one day blowing about on an industrial estate somewhere.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Guardian readers cannot bear very much reality

so will find this article a little complex for their tastes. It is about the morality of war, specifically Iraq. So there. Hat-tip Norm.

And I exempt my friends who are sensible people with brains who do read the Guardian from the title of this post.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Kennet Meadows 2, Protect Flood The Plain!

look at this splendid picture

pitiful stuff really, much hilarity on the comments before the story was changed in His Master's Voice

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Kennet Meadows

Remember how in 2002 Mr Salter and Cllr Ruhemann stood up and said "Homes for people, build on Kennet Meadows"? Then they U-turned and said "Don't". Yes, we do remember. Now an email from the Prudential's property arm has been acquired, presumably by Cllr Ruhemann or Cllr Lovelock, as the email purports to have been sent to the Chief Executive of Reading Borough Council, who is not a corrupt political stooge as his predecessor was, and has been reproduced on the Silly Boys website. In case you haven't seen it it goes like this:

Excerpt from email from David Morris to Michael Coughlin 5.3.2010:

As discussed, I took over the running of the Development Team here at PRUPIM in June last year; since then I have been working closely with Prudential Assurance Company Limited (PAC) to reassess its ongoing strategic land commitments, including Kennet Valley Park (KVP) or Kennet Meadows as you may know it.

As an important and key stakeholder in the Reading Area and (more particularly), someone who has shown great personal interest in the KVP project over the years, I thought it was important that we extended the courtesy of conveying directly to you some important news about the future of the project.

PAC has taken onboard the fact that South West Reading SDA failed to secure an allocation in the newly published South East Plan (SEP), but PAC's main concerns have more recently focused on the long-term commercial viability of the project.

The Fund has now concluded that the project is no longer capable of delivering appropriate levels of return to its investors, bearing in mind the risk involved.

To conclude, therefore, a formal notice has now been served by PAC to terminate the Consortium Landowners Agreement (made between PAC, Tarmac, Hanson, Cemex and Bucknell Brothers), which brings the collaboration between those parties on this project to a close.

PAC now intends to examine ways in which it can dispose of its land holdings within the KVP project area, as they are clearly no longer of any strategic importance. To be clear, activities at Green Park remain unaffected.

I don't know if Mr Morris knew to what use his email would be put, and it doesn't matter. But if you are in the business world or in any other field which might at some time communicate with Reading Borough Council, then be warned - under the current council leadership of Zim One Lovelock and a few desperate men you could find your words prayed in aid for the corrupt little clique that is the leadership of Reading Labour Party.

hurrah for the Church of England!

yes indeed, say I. But Basher has posted to congratulate the Church on, he says, declining to give a platform to the BNP. Except, er, they haven't. What they have said, not unreasonably, is that the values of the BNP as currently expressed are strongly at variance with what the Church stands for, that officers of the Church, lay or ordained, should not therefore be members of the BNP, that care should be taken to avoid giving the impression that the Church supports the BNP, for example by being pictured with BNP councillors at Remembrance Day events, and that if hustings events for the forthcoming general election are proposed on church premises then church officers may choose not to invite the BNP, but if they do so then such a meeting would attract election expenses for any other parties invited, and that this should be made clear to those parties. Not quite the same thing Basher, is it? So Basher McKenzie is either lying to the electorate (not for the first time) or is sufficiently challenged in the grey cells department to have failed to understand the rather simple statement issued by the Church. Doesn't inspire confidence, does it? When Labour come to your door in Park ward ask them why they booted out the girl they had representing them, whether it was because Merriott is lazy (she is) or simple misogyny, and ask why Basher is being economical with the truth re the BNP. Then vote for the man who does tell the truth. Rob White.

Monday, 8 March 2010

International Women's Day

I had kind of forgotten that it was today, celebration of it has gone a bit out of style in recent years, though not here in Sarajevo, as I found today in a coffee shop when a man gave me a rose and I did not at first understand why. Anyway, there is to be a celebration in Reading, which has led commentators on His Master's Voice to, not to put too fine a point on it, take the piss, and some of them to point out that the celebration event is to be held in Cumberland Road, an area of east Reading where it is not uncommon to see women with their heads covered, though not wearing the burka or niqab unless things have changed a lot in the last five years. Anyway, the HMV report was a few days ago, and not being an avid reader of the comments there I missed this:

I wonder whether "Calamity" Jane will grace this event with her presence? Older readers from the hood (and I don't mean hijab, burka or niqab) may remember her as the flame-haired temptress (LOL). Unless she's advising some hapless Baltic state on foreign economic policy... Martin S, if you're reading this, I'm sure you will know who I mean. See you in the Real Ale tent on the day, chaps!
Boulevardier innit

skinflint or what?

If I had done this I would not want publicity for it. From His Master's Voice

Tilehurst pupil Helen Cole got some help towards her fundraising target from her local MP.

Reading West MP Martin Salter sponsored the Little Heath School student in her quest to fly to Morocco for a trip to North Africa.

On Thursday, February 25, Mr Salter visited Little Heath School to present Helen with a cheque for £20. She hopes to raise a total of £1,009 in time for her flight at Easter.

The trip is an opportunity to experience the culture of the country as well contributing to Education for All, a global project which aims to provide the opportunity of a college education for girls from rural communities.

Yes, you read that right. Not 250 quid. Not 100 quid. Twenty. From the boat-owning Mr S who is on 65 grand a year plus expenses, he does not pay for his own chocolate. Mr S has always been mean with money, he was once heard (by me) to say that he had paid 150 quid for the suit he was wearing at the time, which was probabll true by the look of tte garment in question, but Mr S was presenting the amount as if it was a lot of money.

Reading West

the Politics Show did a PPCs' debate from Reading West yesterday. Without the Green candidate Adrian Windisch. And they did it using the Salter map of the constituency. So it was broadcast from Reading East. Still think the broadcast and print media are democratic and this newfangled cyberweb thingy is anti-democratic, readers?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

activist blues

Budget Day is going to be on 24th March. So says Richard Willis, and I think he is right. Gordon will not want to go to the country on 1st April, for obvious reasons, and Richard Willis is right about that too. So Gordon will go on 6th April, just after Easter, taking advantage of the fact that Easter is relatively early this year, because campaigning has to stop for four whole days otherwise, which is far too long in a general election, and the general election will thus be on 6th May. I do hope Lambeth council get me my postal vote in time, otherwise Eurostar will be getting too much of my hard-earned. But notice something in Richard Willis' post - he says that the dwindling number of Labour councillors who want to hold on to their seats has reduced the pool of activists available to help Labour candidates. True enough. But councillors are in it for themselves as well as for the party. A truly active and vibrant party needs activists on the ground who believe in the cause and not just in their own careers. What the Tories call "the voluntary party", which I saw disappear from the Conservatives in the early 1990s and which has now all but disappeared from the Labour Party in many areas, is essential to victory IMHO. Richard Willis is making the assumption that to have activists you need to have councillors, in fact that they are the same people, with which I disagree. The activists have disappeared from Labour for several reasons, which require another post to discuss, though as always I would welcome views, this being an interactive blog.

And now off to see the bridge where the archduke (and his pregnant wife) were shot down. And to remember that Radovan Karadzic is on trial. And to be glad that there is an international judicial process, in fact there is more than one. And to wonder if Douglas Hurd and his friends and associates have ever acknowledged their own responsibility for some of what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s, and to remember, in the words of little Bobby Zimmerman "even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked."

Saturday, 6 March 2010

an archduke was shot down in Bosnia

I am in Sarajevo, which so far is interesting, a beautiful pink sunset on the snow when we arrived, ripped off by the taxi driver but otherwise a friendly welcome, the call to prayer heard on seemingly every street corner but many bars serving alcohol - Bosnia, land of contrasts, hein? Any readers who know this country and this town, please get in touch, I would like to know more.

transport funding

I thought this was interesting, from Transport Xtra

Transport Minister Sadiq Khan this week sent England’s urban transport policy in a new direction by scrapping the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), confirming the cancellation of the Sustainable Travel Cities programme, and announcing a new Urban Challenge Fund to be introduced if Labour wins the forthcoming General Election.

The new fund will support packages of measures such as walking and cycling, better bus services, demand management measures, traffic management and improved street design.

Funding will be awarded via a competitive bidding process but Khan was unable to say how much funding would be in the pot. This won’t be known until after the post-election Comprehensive Spending Review. He said the fund would be top-sliced from the Department’s overall budget.

The demise of TIF had been widely expected ever since the public in Greater Manchester resoundingly rejected the conurbation’s package of congestion charging and public transport investment in a referendum in December 2008. TIF’s end was all but confirmed last November when the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit published a review of urban transport that reframed the urban transport “problem” from TIF’s narrow focus on congestion to a broader set of issues.

The decision to cancel the Sustainable Travel Cities programme is more of a surprise and highlights the financial difficulties facing the Department. Four conurbations (West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and Nottingham) were shortlisted last summer for a share of the £29m pot to deliver measures to reduce car use. Two areas had been expected to share the funds.

The future of the Urban Congestion Performance Fund is also to be reviewed.

Khan explained the changes in a speech to an invited audience of local authorities and other stakeholders in London this week.

The Urban Challenge Fund brings Labour and the Conservatives closer together on urban transport policy. The Tories announced plans to replace TIF with a Transport Carbon Reduction Fund last year. In an interview with LTT this week, shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said her party remained committed to the principle of the fund but – like Khan – she could not say how much funding would be allocated to it.

The most immediate impact of TIF’s demise will be felt in Reading and Cambridgeshire, the two authorities that were furthest advanced in developing TIF investment packages. They will now have to submit bids to the new funding stream, alongside other councils.

Khan this week praised Labour-controlled Reading Borough Council’s
(sic) proposed phased approach to demand management beginning with a Low Emission Zone and moving to road pricing only if a congestion threshold is met. “This has helped influence our thinking,” he said.

Reading’s deputy leader, councillor Tony Page, this week told LTT that the DfT’s announcement would delay the council’s plans by “a few months”. But he said Reading would be in a strong position to receive funding from the Urban Challenge Fund.

“We are still in pole position for an early approval,” he said, adding that the DfT had just awarded the council further funding to develop its proposals. “The Government will want Reading and Cambridgeshire, when they catch up with work we have done, to be early approvals,” he said. “This will enable the Government to say to other authorities, ‘Here’s an early approval, this is what we’re willing to back with hard cash’.”

Page said it was too early to say if the new fund would prompt Reading to drop the idea of a congestion charge altogether.

The Department is seeking views by 4 June on how the Urban Challenge Fund should operate.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

PM in Reading East

The Reading Chronicle (so it probably is true) has informed us that the PM's visit to Reading on Monday was to Reading East. Gordon informed the waiting throng that he had "been talking to Martin Salter" about the place he was in. Reading East. A disgrace.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Michael Foot


no confidence

in Cllr Hartley - a motion is to be moved to this effect. Because he either lied to the council. Or misled it by not checking his facts. Interestingly this was about the council's actions, or lack of them, to help stop bullying. Which is something Cllr Hartley knows a lot about.

A fair wind for the motion, I trust. All present and voting.

Cllr Hartley couldn't even be bothered to pay his car tax while he was a parliamentary candidate, leaving his car to add to the many untaxed cars littering the streets of Newtown, remember.

In the name of God, go.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

some questions not answered

you might have seen that no comments have appeared on the post below - that is because none received were fit to print, though there were a lot of them, the most printable one said in part "damned impertinence lady". the rest were savage, some pornographic, all angry, and most apparently from a few Reading Labour boys. Get over yourselves, say I.

some questions to answer

1. Why was Anneliese either not invited to meet Gordon in Reading East yesterday, or if she was she was not seen in photographs, unlike Cllr Page?

2. Did Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson write to the Reading East MP to inform him of their impending visit to his constituency, or did they, as ministers have regularly in the past, rely on briefing from Mr Salter to the effect that the whole of Reading is his constituency?
update: no they didn't, according to the Reading East MP in His Master's Voice, although Salter was invited to the meeting in Reading East.

3. Why is there no mention of the visit on the websites of Reading Labour, South-East Labour, Nasty Naz or Anneliese at the time of writing, some 24 hours after the visit?
one fraudulent tweet so far, posted by Nasty 24 hours after he said it was.

4. Did anyone from the Labour Party talk to Sky News, who last night had an item about Reading West as a key target seat but in the absence of Labour half-filled the item with quotes from David Cameron?

5. Did Gordon and Alan visit Reading West, if so what did they do there and if not why not?

Answers please.

Monday, 1 March 2010

she's back in the attic!

well, where else? Anneliese I mean, been locked up again in Singleton-White's attic. The only coverage of Gordo's visit to Reading today was in His Master's Voice, and I could not see any members of the public present, just a phalanx of police. Oh and Cllr Tony Page. But not Anneliese. It is almost as if, ever since Reading East selected its Labour candidate, there have been two candidates. The Official candidate, Anneliese Dodds, who is rarely seen in public, and who is placed firmly at the back of any photo-opportunity. She was not seen shaking Gordo's hand, in fact was not seen at all. But Tony Page was, oh yes. He is the Continuity candidate. He is the one the Reading Labour boys want to stand in the election of their dreams. He is the one they would have selected after 2005, but instead they discovered to their utter horror that the candidate was going to have to be a GIRL. We thought we'd put a stop to GIRLS being allowed to stand for election, they said to each other. Poor loves. I wonder if Gordo went on to Reading West to do something for Nasty Naz. I wonder if Salter turned up, or was he too busy messing about in boats. I wonder why the Reading Evening Post featured Tony Page so prominently in its coverage and left out the parliamentary candidate. I wonder.

update. Sky has been in Reading today and interviewed Alan Johnson in the Town Hall, mentioning that Labour needs to win Reading West. Er, that's it. They probably thought they were in Reading West, having been given the Salter map of Reading.

el gordo goes to a marginal

Reading, to be precise. Do not know if he went to Reading West this morning, the pic was taken in Reading East. If they only went to Reading East they would not have needed to inform Salter. Behind Gordo and Alan Johnson is Cllr Tony Page, failed Labour candidate in Reading East in 2005, cannot see if Anneliese is there, she is usually kept firmly out of sight.
update: Silly Boys' and Anneliese's websites still silent on the visit. Rob Wilson, incumbent conservative MP for Reading East since 2005, straight in with an email to all those signed up to his e-newsletter, with questions he thought Gordo should have answered. The meeting was of course not open to the general public. We are told.

fox hunters support the Tories

well, given that it appears that the Tories have said they would repeal the ban, it would hardly be surprising that a large majority of those who like hunting foxes with dogs support the Tories. Nor that they would turn out to help that party when an election is looming. So what is Reading Labour getting so upset about? There's a grainy photograph, apparently taken on a not-very-good mobile phone, which shows, er, some people in a car park. They are hunt supporters, we are told. Apparently you can tell they are hunt supporters by the cut of their jeans. Or that they look a bit funny. Or something. And these hunt supporters have been turning up in said car park to be given leaflets to deliver in Reading West.

So. Political party uses volunteer supporters to deliver leaflets. Shock. Who does Reading Labour think should be delivering the Tories' leaflets? The council? Oh sorry, that has already been done. At least Mr Salter told us it had and that "his T&G men" delivered his election leaflets in Reading Borough Council vans.

On the subject of elections, we have the regionals here on 14th and 21st March. And I have no vote in them. Grrr. There was a rally yesterday, with red flags and hammers and sickles. Bring back the old certainties, that's what I say. Bring me Stalin and St. Paul (That's enough. Ed.)

bullying in the news

now here is an interesting post about bullying, by Adrian Windisch. I still haven't said everything I know about this, and there are people who got out of Reading Labour and who are still picking up the emotional pieces. However, the corrupt little clique at the heart of Reading Labour is almost gone. Former Cllr Howarth says he is no longer political, so he continues to be Martin Salter's brain bank. The boat-owning Mr S himself will be out of the political picture soon, though I suspect he will remain the flunkey of Reading Borough Council for a while. Dictatorship Dave "moronic members of the public" Sutton is long gone, gratifyingly booted out by the electorate. And I do not imagine that the corrupt clique will retain the leadership of Reading Borough Council beyond the next few weeks. And whoever is Prime Minister will have faced the electorate in order to get that position. I have just read former Labour General Secretary Peter Watt's book, straplined "cowardice and betrayal at the heart of New Labour". Watt was done over, mainly by Gordon, when matters which had been there before his time were exposed. And he didn't like it. When will they learn that a kicked dog is likely to bite you next time round?

Significant other and I were sorting out some of his old photos last night, and boy did we find some interesting ones.