Thursday, 31 March 2011



and this one is true, she did say that - she is hoping to be elected to the council and she said she had "no problem" with taxpayers' money being used to fund Labour election campaigns, except she said it was for trade union officials, but that is not what it is for

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


I reproduce without comment

sound familiar?

this is the take of former Australian federal treasurer Peter Costello (who admittedly has an axe to grind, though the report is mostly factual) on the trashing of Labor in the New South Wales election at the weekend.  Plenty I recognised there, and there is someone who probably feels right at home in those circles.

hahaha april fish

"poisson d'avril" as the French call April Fool's Day, or rather as they call jokes etc played on that day.  A typically hilarious thing to do is to cut a fish shape out of paper and stick it on the back of some unwitting person's jacket.  I mention it today because I have the dubious privilege of assisting in the production of my workplace's in-house newsletter, and this week there is to be an "alternative version" to appear on Friday morning.  Imagine how we have been roaring in the editorial office.  My workplace has employees from 47 countries.  I can SO promise you that there is not much that nationals of 47 different countries all find funny, though I suspect there is more than there used to be in these days of the cyberweb thingy.  And it seems that only the Brits think 1st April is about spoofs rather than funnies.  I made the mistake of trying to explain the spaghetti harvest in several languages (not including Italian).  It didn't work.  This picture though made everyone laugh, Matt in the Telegraph.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

think she's really called Laura

not Laurie Penny as she styles herself.  I won't bore you with a link to her outpourings, suffice to say she may well be the most annoying creature in the anglophone cybersphere just at present.  While it is great fun being rude to her on Twitter, there may be a serious point here.  She affects to despise the trade unionists who marched in London last weekend. What does she have against trade unions?  What does she have against hummus? (She referred to those taking part in the trade union rally in Hyde Park as "hummus munchers").


Update:  Ms Red has just Tweeted that she is being subjected to "nasty sexual bullying".  Is that what this is?  You can dish it out, Pens, but you can't take it, can you?

Monday, 28 March 2011

turning left

is what has been happening in elections over the weekend.  The left in Alsace, in the "cantonales" (equivalent approximately to county council elections, and in which I do not have a vote chiz) got a toe-hold outside the city of Strasbourg for the first time, and held on to the four districts it had in the city, although in the one I live in, Strasbourg 2 Gare, it looks like a Green rather than a socialist.   Which I am not thrilled about.  The Front National, always strong in this part of France, perhaps because this region has spent a lot of its history being German but never had the de-Nazification they got across the Rhine, stayed strong but did not advance much, both it and the left gaining from Sarko's UMP, whose condition is now tragic and may be terminal.  Across the  Rhine in Baden-Wurttemberg Angie got a severe kicking, and the Land looks Green, the first time in 58 years it has not been CDU.  Angie has lost her mojo, the commentators say, and I suspect they are right.  And watching the coverage of the demo in London on Saturday, I am toe-curlingly embarrassed for Silly Milly E.  What on earth was he doing there?  TB would never have gone near it.  But then he was Prime Minister.  Remember, Ed?  There used to be a Labour government.  Oh but you don't like those, do you?  Enjoy opposition.  Enjoy the Guardian editorials.  Bye boys.  What a waste.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Warren Swaine 2

As I suspected, and indeed hoped, a number of people connected in various ways to politics in Reading have been in touch with me about the Strange History on which I posted yesterday.  I reproduce some gleanings below.  As before, please do correct (I have checked facts wherever I can) or express views. Some were kind enough to say that I have got the "Swaine affair" "substantially correct", which is gratifying.  Some have also commented on what induced Mr Swaine to tweet as he did, but as I believe there was no-one else there at the time and Mr Swaine himself has not provided intelligence, I shall draw a veil.  However, here is a comment from a former constituent: 

The Labour Party ran at it like a rat up a drain. I don’t blame them – Reading politics is a contact sport, and they thought that they could see a weakness, and they chose to exploit it. However, for what it is worth, Warren is no racist. He is half Sri Lankan this is not a guarantee of not being racist, Ed., and has been very friendly with the local Nepali community, long before it became fashionable. I don't recall him seeking pointless photo-opps with members of that community either, Ed.
I am also told, which seems plausible, that the local LibDems thought it was a non-story and would die down, and so did the Tories.
A correspondent's understanding is that the Labour Party (they do not say whether this was the local or the national, or indeed the regional, Labour Party), took it to Cowley Street and asked for action to be taken, and the “decision” was made by a junior staffer in the Press Office that Swaine Must Go. A correspondent apparently well placed to know about this exchange comments: when the opposition asks for you to do something, particularly if that opposition party is Reading Labour Party, the best thing to do is to tell them to go and boil their heads. It is also sensible to get the other side of the story as well! If only someone had told the former Government Chief Whips Ann Loaf-Head Taylor and Horrible Hilary Armstrong that. But Loaf-Head had Roy Hattersley's baby so must be deranged, or at the very least seriously lacking in judgment, and Hills the Horrible - Government Chief Whip, remember - actually told me that she was "cross" with Mr Salter for voting against the government on Iraq, when, er, he hadn't.  And she hadn't checked.  Doh.

Certainly Swaine is more dangerous to the Labour Party now than he was before – he has nothing to restrain him (certainly not his judgement) and he is going to go for them big time. Now it’s personal. says another.

Sources close to a couple of chaps who are now senior Tory councillors in Reading say that the most able and  focused LibDem councillors (this was fed to me some time ago) are, in alphabetical order, Bayes, Benson and Swaine.

Hmmm and double hmmm.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Strange History of Warren Swaine

a political tale that is more strange than sad, and more sad than good.  I do not know Mr Swaine personally, having seen him perhaps once or twice.  He came to my attention when I was MP for Reading East and he chose to engage in some mockery of my campaign to bring the "Biscuit Train" back to Reading, which campaign those with long memories and not much to occupy their time will recall.  I had no objection to the mockery, it comes with the territory of political activity and public life; I was not one of those politicians who cannot operate without a fix of positive column inches in the local paper.  And I still think that campaign was a good one, being as it was about sense of place.  People don't care about politicians and their travails, but they do care about the place they live.  Anyway, Mr Swaine soon developed a satirical site called muckspReading, which poked fun at Reading politicians, and especially the Labour Group, in control of the council at the time.  It could be amusing at times, though was rarely subtle.  Perhaps its most memorable epithet for the then MP for Reading West, Martin Salter, was "boundary-hopping", given the latter's propensity to campaign and appear in public almost entirely in Reading East.  This caused Mr Salter to engage in some personal abuse of Mr Swaine, calling him a "tragic individual who needs to get out more", which was naturally enough reproduced on the strapline of muckspReading. Then Mr Swaine decided muckspReading was not enough.

For him the commanding heights of the Reading economy were within reach, and he duly became a candidate for election to the council in Katesgrove, not for a proper political party but for the LibDems.  The seat he was contesting was held by the then leader of the council, Dictatorship Dave Sutton, Chirac groupie and friend of Hamas.  Cllr Sutton was in due time defeated, amid roars of abuse from the Reading Labour boys around him (sig other and I cracked a bottle of something sparkling at this point, as you might expect) and Cllr Swaine took his seat.   Outgoing councillor Dictatorship Dave had just one parting shot, and it was to call his erstwhile constituents in Katesgrove (at least that's who I think he meant) "moronic members of the public".  He said afterwards he was tired when he said it.  Emotional too, I should imagine.  Anyway, a precious moment for those who care about probity in public life, hein?

Cllr Swaine began to find things out.  He began to find out about some of the corrupt behaviour of the central core of the Reading Labour Group.  He began to find out about the use of huge amounts of council resources to shore up the election campaigns of Martin Salter, and about instructions to council officers to destroy any negative references to Mr Salter.  More seats were gained by non-Labour councillors.  But it took the election of a Tory-LibDem coalition government nationally in 2010 for the Tory and LibDem groups respectively to gain the courage to govern themselves.  Thus our hero becomes a front-bench councillor, rather I imagine against his own expectations.  All this against the background of flurries of complaints to the Standards Board, some more frivolous than others, and relentless, lurid and personal briefings from Labour against Cllr Swaine to the Reading Evening Post, whose mission statement is to copy out Labour press releases.  muckspReading had been stood down by now, as Cllr Swaine appeared to wish to be seen as a serious politician, rather than as (in his own words in earlier days on muckspReading) "a pillock".

One fateful night our hero, aghast at the lamentable performance of south London Labour MP Chuka Umunna on a BBC game show for the masses called I think Question Time, tweets words to the effect that Umunna is a politically inadequate muppet (he is, gorgeous isn't everything, Chuka) and imagines the response of Streatham's finest as "Is it because I is black?"  Reading Labour do not do Twitter, they have barely entered the 1990s when it comes to "new media", so when these words were gently brought to their attention by a kindly nurse they decided that Something Must Be Done.  Racist, they said.  Will Not Do.  That Man's Head Must Roll.  Besides, he's been finding out about All That Stuff that led to Resignations and Police Involvement, to say nothing of Martin Salter's Free Car Parking Anywhere In The Borough Of Reading!  So - well, nothing much happened.  Basher McKenzie treated us all to a picture of Cllr Swaine which he left on his website for far too long.  And, er... nothing.

As I write it appears that Cllr Swaine has been suspended from the LibDems and is therefore an independent councillor.  An enviable position.  But what of his own party, the LibDems?  Locally they have come out of this very badly indeed.  When a media firestorm kicks off after an unwary remark by a councillor, the local party should either issue a statement of support for that councillor or should suspend him or her.  The Reading LibDems did neither.  It was the national party which suspended, and seemingly expelled, Cllr Swaine.  So Reading Labour got what they wanted.  The expulsion of Cllr Swaine from his party and his resignation from the front bench of the council.  Except that that leaves Cllr Swaine free to speak.  Which can damage them far more than he could have done if he had remained in government.  Which they didn't realise.  Having learned nothing from the effect on the electorate of deselecting an MP.  Rob Wilson is likely to be MP for Reading East for as long as he wants to be, especially as he is actually working in the constituency.

So now, whither Warren Swaine?  The Reading Tories have had nothing (much) to say about him, and latterly they have shown signs of wanting to conflate any criticism they may have of their coalition partners the LibDems into the "Swaine affair".  Which I suppose is clever politics.

All the above is my own musing on the topic.  I would welcome comments, as I always do.     

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

there's a guy works down the...

the man in the picture on the right is the Front National candidate in Andolsheim in our part of France, who as you see got over 20% of the vote.  Well, enough said really...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

long arm of the law in redlands

this time we see two identical posts, from Jan Gavin and Tony Jones respectively, informing us that the Director of Public Prosecutions has been asked to determine whether an offence appears to have been committed in the publication and distribution of a LibDem Focus leaflet which allegedly made a false statement about Ms Gavin, who is expected to be Labour's candidate in Redlands ward in Reading in this year's local elections.  I haven't seen the leaflet (anyone?) but allegedly it has to do with council tax funding of full-time trade union officials in Reading Borough Council.  It was still being delivered last Sunday, they tell us.  Anyway, Reading Labour ought to be careful.  Their erstwhile supremo and still Redlands resident Stuart Singleton-White is known to be relaxed about criminal activity at election time, as Thames Valley Police found.  That particular episode, in 2004-5, resulted in a clean sweep; all three Labour councillors in Redlands lost their seats following the electoral fraud and Labour's complacency about it.  So, motes and beams, matey boys.

takes one to stuff one

a green I mean.

Who wrote this:

Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.

Well, you probably knew the answer.  George Monbiot.  Surprised me a bit.  You can read the rest of what he wrote on this subject here.  He is right of course, though in part for the wrong reasons.  He says that a lot more expansion of renewables like wind and wave is unworkable because of the effects on the landscape.  Planning permission.  Enraged residents, dontcha know.  Nuclear power stations are not pretty, but they are self-contained and not particularly near population centres, even in Japan.  There are not many places in the world where major earthquakes take place and which also have nuclear power stations.  Armenia is one.  You read it here first.  Wind turbines are beautiful in my opinion - not everyone agrees with me - in French even their name is beautiful - "les aeoliennes".  These issues are not simple,  We all supported the miners, remember?  Whose product trashed the environment - I am just old enough to remember the London smog - and was utterly unsustainable.  And kept us warm.

Unexpected things have been happening lately.  The pro-Saddam Guardianista anti-interventionists came out in large numbers for intervention in Libya; even Yabbers (Alibhai-Brown) wasn't sure what she thought about it, leaving only the Filth itself and its racist Comment is Free and a few totalitarian Trots to be against.  Prominent greens come out for nuclear power.  What next?  George Galloway for a democratic Israel?  Daniel Hannan for a federalist future? 

freedom and the corrections

Unreadable.  Just thought I'd share that with you.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

whither the Blair generation?

Hat-tip John Rentoul for this. I am a baby boomer and the same age as Tony Blair, so that is the generation I am part of, but this article says what I fervently believe. While Egypt votes (don't forget) and the war goes on in Libya, let's think about this too.

I received an email the other day from Darren Canning, which I reproduce with his permission. I think it speaks for itself:

I joined the Labour Party in 2005 to help fight an election where I feared Tony Blair’s New Labour could be defeated on the basis of the Iraq war. I had been a supporter of the party all my voting life but that was the moment I felt the need to get more involved. It wasn’t on the swell of general popularity or during easy times. I chose my side in the argument of the day and fought that corner.

I was more than unhappy when Gordon Brown took unelected control of the party but despite misgivings I held on as while there were things I didn’t agree with, broadly speaking, it was a development of the standpoint I shared. I believed in then and believe in now the principle of tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, I believe in not setting a limit to success, I believe in liberal interventionism, the reform of services focusing on the service provided and not the historic means of provision, I believe in the cooperation of the private and public sectors, equality of opportunity and access, and ensuring that the rising tide lifts all. I have argued for these things, campaigned for them , with friends, family, neighbours and now my own party is trashing the record I am so proud of, distancing itself from not only one of its best leaders but one of the truly great prime ministers our country has ever had. I can’t tell you what we stand for any more, what our position is on anything, all I can tell you is we seem certain that we got it wrong while in power and that the principles that changed this country for the better and forever were something best to have a line drawn under and be forgotten about.

I keep hearing how a new generation is in charge of Labour now and keep wondering if there is any place left in it for me.  I have been involved in the local elections campaign here and all we have had to say is vote for us we’re not Tories. It isn’t enough to get excited about and I can’t bring myself to knock on doors and have the words of my own leadership thrown at me to trash the things in politics I think are important.  I am pulling out of active campaigning and am seriously thinking of leaving the party all together. At least then I will be free to defend the last 13 years without constantly being accused of being ‘disloyal’. I am writing to you asking for counsel, is there a place for those who still value the New Labour project in this new Labour party or is it time to take a break?

I wish I knew the answer.

Tagged in: New Labour

Saturday, 19 March 2011

no fly zone

Is happening, as the world's people knew long before I did, what is happening on the ground in Libya is another matter. I am in the rural northern Vosges this weekend where mobile signal is variable at best, but this is probably good for me once in a while. But let it be for the best, let Libya's people be free.

Update: breaking news on CNN: US Tomahawk missiles land near Misrata and Tripoli. Let it be over soon. It probably will not be. And unlike in Iraq there is no way of knowing how it will end, or how long it will take.

Jeremy Corbyn (hat-tip Norm) asked the tired old question, why Libya when there are so many other countries with human rights abuses. Answer from David Cameron: just because we can't do the right thing everywhere doesn't mean we shouldn't do it somewhere. Spot on, Dave. We are doing it there because we can. Because there is a UN resolution authorising it. As there was for Iraq actually. Oh yes.

Now, as I retire parched and exhausted from a session of English country dancing (don't ask) to do my nails, legs and a face pack (what luxury on a Saturday night) a peaceful night to those in a position to have one.

Friday, 18 March 2011

at f***ing last

The UN Security Council has backed a no-fly zone over Libya and “all necessary measures” short of an invasion “to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas”.

The UK, France and Lebanon proposed the council resolution, with US support.
There are reports of celebrations in Benghazi on hearing this news, but we can only hope that this action is not too late to prevent the crushing of the uprising against the dictatorship.
Countries voting yes: Britain, France, USA, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa.
Countries voting no: None.
Countries abstaining: Russia, China, India, Germany and Brazil

At the time of writing Libyan air space closed, French military briefing media that air strikes may take place within hours.

Dany "Le Rouge" Cohn-Bendit interviewed on i-tele this morning, says Sarko is right to support military action and that France needs a strong military and an activist approach to world affairs.

Elections in France on Sunday.  Sarko is mortally afraid of the Front National, whose foreign policy, such as it is, is isolationist.  Also Sarko is not the corrupt spineless Chirac, now rightly on trial for stealing the people's money.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it peeps.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

they will kill us all

please read this plea from Benghazi.  How odd it is that there was all that outcry prior to the invasion of Iraq, and now there is something of an outcry because there is no invasion of Libya.  Or that's how it seems anyway.  the Guardian of course is against intervention.  Brown-skin Arabs being slaughtered are just fine by Ms Guardian.  But increasingly others are not.  But it is, almost, too late.

Oh and Palace, please rescind the King of Bahrain's invitation to the Wills and Kate wedding, there's good people.

Of Human Bondage

yes, another one in the series of public-domain (ie free) books I am reading on the iPad, usually while on public transport. (I am more likely to read printed books at home, but that may well change).  Just at the moment my reading seems to be books by gay Englishmen published early in the twentieth century, but that's just coincidence I imagine.  I don't know what a person is supposed to think about this book.  I read it in my late teens and thought it was wonderful, and then forgot it.  This time I read it differently.  Its central character, Philip Carey, is a friendless orphan boy who is socially awkward and has a club foot.  He fails at just about everything he does - being religious, being a painter, being a lover, being an accountant, being a friend, being loved.  The book takes him from the age of nine, when his mother dies and he becomes an orphan, to twenty-nine, when we leave him apparently about to become happy in the arms of a sturdy 19-year-old Kentish girl with big hips.  (This is not a spoiler).  In between, he spends years besotted with a waitress who becomes a working girl on the streets and who despises and tries to destroy him, he loses the little money he has and is homeless and starving on the streets for a while, a poet dies in his bedroom, and a woman who loves him but who is loved by no-one kills herself because she has no money.  He becomes a medical student, diagnoses the woman he loves with probably syphilis, and she goes on working the streets.  In short, not a bundle of laughs.  There is plenty in this book about art, talent and the creative process, and a refrain is "We do this, but we don't know why", which becomes a little tiresome after a while.  Surely if you are a painter or a writer or a musician you don't need to know why you do it, you just need to, er, do it.  There are plenty of wonderfully drawn characters in the creative world, presumably based on people Maugham knew, and the book probably pissed people off for that reason at the time, but none of that matters now.  The book, like almost all English novels, is about money.  We hear on almost every page about how much money Philip currently has, how much it will cost him to do X or Y, how much money he owes, and how much he expects his uncle, who took him in when his mother died, to leave him.  There is nothing here that reflects the experimental writing of the time, such as that of Joyce or Woolf: Maugham tells a straight story.  Some of the best reading in it for me was the conversations between artists, about how to see the world and whether, or if, artists actually change the way we see the world or only reflect it.  But be warned, if this kind of thing is not what you like there is an awful lot of it.  The book is a long one, but for me never dragged or palled at all.  I wanted to know on every page what was going to happen to Philip next.  There is a lot here about people who try to be creative but who have no talent.  This is rare. Artists in books are usually talented and successful, or else we see them early in their career before they have been recognised. Not here.  In this book we see them after years of toil, producing bad work tht nobody wants to buy or thinks worth while.  Some of them we see drinking themselves to death after decades of failure, some becoming fat and bald as their youthful fizz and spark turns to dullness and ashes. Philip himself tries to be a painter, but is ultimately not talented enough and gives it up.  Money is the theme, with failure a sub-theme.   A nurse at one point remarks on the suicides and attempted suicides brought in to the hospital where she works.  People don't kill themselves because of love, she says, that's only in books, they kill themselves because they haven't got any money.     


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

on the knockers

Sarko mob sorry

barmy creatures

Sarko mob again, they really do get everywhere

ah, these are the Left Greens.  Or something.

Parti Socialiste.  At least you know where you are with these.

Left Front and Communist Party.  Nuff said.
election time is here tralala, Sunday is the first round of voting, and undoubtedly the following Sunday for the second round.  It is the cantonales, elections of half of the councillors for the Conseil Regional - not all of Strasbourg has elections, but where I live we do.  Most of the Strasbourg divisions have become marginals in recent years, and the Front National historically poll well in Alsace (though have not elected anyone in the city of Strasbourg yet I am glad to say) hence Marine Le Pen's visit last week and fairly feverish activity by all.  We have so far been canvassed by the UMP (Sarko's people) and the Greens, not in either time.  For what it's worth I shall be voting (if they let me - not totally clear about the rules) Parti Socialiste, even though I cannot pronounce his name, which is Gsell.  The pictures show the flyer and the UMP "sorry" as we used to call lit in my political activist days, left when we were not in to answer their candidate or canvasser's call, and posters for other parties.

Dontcha just love French politics.  No strikes for ages now.  School holidays,

cosmopolitan lawyers

Robert Badinter
bossing dear old Britain about, dear oh dear, telling the UK all prisoners must vote (they didn't).  Robert Badinter, pictured, says Margaret Thatcher once called him exactly that.  I think he was rather proud.  I heard him speak yesterday at the Council of Europe.  He is almost 83, not exactly an electrifying speaker, but very interesting to hear.  He is still a senator (Parti Socialiste, natch), was a minister under Mitterrand, and was the architect of the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981 - you can hear his speech on that occasion here.  Obviously it, and the speech I heard yesterday, are in French, but some of my readers can understand it I know.  The main point of his speech was that without the European Convention on Human Rights governments would retain laws and policies for political expediency, populism or electoral gain which militate against individual human rights as well as democracy and the rule of law.  France would still have the death penalty if it was not for the Convention, he says, and he may be right, special pleading aside.  When asked (by a Ukrainian journalist as it happens) what were the greatest obstacles to democracy, human rights and the rule of law throughout the wider Europe, he went straight to the current policies of the British government, on a Bill of Rights, prisoners' votes and so on.  He summed up by saying "Patriotisme, oui.  Nationalisme, non!"

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Bahrain - again

Saudi troops go into Bahrain.  Call this an invasion?  Not sure I would.  They were asked in by the ruling al-Khalifa family of despots.  But even if it was, a bit like the Russian invasion of Georgia two and a half years ago, no-one cares.  Bahrain is a shady kind of place (not that I have ever been there) where Saudi men go for R&R and working girls go to get their money.  If you are Shia in Bahrain you are not allowed to work in the civil service or join the army or the police. Why does no-one care?  The demonstrators will not back down, and are not being slaughtered as they are in Libya, but some are being killed.  Is this OK?  Anyone? *sound of tumbleweed*


This is what I have given up for Lent.  Seems like an odd thing, you may say.  To my mind, the thing to be given up should be something which is a significant part of your life but which you do not actually need, thereby trimming down your intake.  How important was Diet Coke in my life?  Hard to say.  For several years now I have drunk some every day except (usually) Sunday.  Coke because the caffeine in it helps ward off afternoon sleepiness, a cold drink for liquid intake and because office air is dry, Diet because my diabetic tendencies (and tendency to be overweight ever since I stopped smoking over seven years ago) contraindicate sugar.  I usually bring a two-litre bottle to work and keep it in the fridge there.  A few weeks ago I ran out.  So I went to our (nasty and overpriced) canteen to get some and it was closed for a private function.  So I went to the vending machine and it had run out.  When I had visited every vending machine in the building, to find them all without Diet Coke, and had got increasingly grumpy and on edge, I began to think I might have a problem.  So I drank my last DC on Mardi Gras.  From then until approximately yesterday, ie five or six days, I felt quite a lot as I did when I stopped smoking.  Physically uncomfortable, experiencing cravings, the inside of the mouth feeling all wrong.  Fine now, drinking water in the afternoons and better for it.  But - who knew?  What do they put in that stuff? 

Monday, 14 March 2011

they have a plan

Still on Libya, Quilliam has released a seven-point plan which you can read on Harry's Place.  It strikes me as intelligent stuff.  Mainly to do with cooperation with the INC in Libya, including military cooperation.  The following is worth noting:

Nb. There is no conceivable or foreseeable need for large-scale deployment of Western or foreign ground troops in Libya. The INC have adequate followers and supporters. If they receive sufficient support from the international community as outlined above, they will be able to conduct all major ground military operations themselves. External military advisors working with – and at the request of – the Libyan opposition (as was done with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001 and with Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq in 2003) can nonetheless also have a huge additional impact if used wisely.

it's probably too late

First Post is a really annoying publication most of the time, but here it is spot on.  A no-fly zone would not work in terms of protecting the people of Libya, as it would not stop fighting on the ground and would probably not stop Gaddafy's attack helicopters either.  So Cameron and Sarkozy's enthusiasm for it is probably misplaced.  So what then?  The Arab League, while it wants to see Gaddafy's regime trashed, probably wants "the West" to do it for it.  And Barry O is too much of a pussy to decide.  Leave them to it.  Gaddafy's troops slaughter the rebels and the general population until the money runs out, there currently not being any oil revenue, leaving the country an ungovernable wasteland.  From rogue state to failed state.  Jolly good, hein?  Or go in.  More people are killed.  Then what, post-Gaddafy?  It's the sharpest challenge to a statesman, to take a position in a situation like this, and then to act on it if necessary.  Infuratingly, the article in First Post refers to what it calls Tony Blair's liberal interventionism as "woolly".  Whatever else it was it was not that.  The Chicago Doctrine he outlined in 1999 was clear and unequivocal.  A lot of people, once they noticed it, did not like it at all.  

Saturday, 12 March 2011

shut the woman up

Basher, posting about a stand in Reading set up by the English Defence League, says he wondered if they had permission to set it up, and that he contacted "the Labour Party" (wtf? if you want to know if a stall in Broad St has permission to be there you contact the council, not the Labour Party.  Oh.)  Following which, it having been established that they had no permission to be there, they were moved on by the police.  Good that they were moved on, not so good Basher for giving this group such top publicity.  Including a picture of their activists on the stall.  When, because they were moved on, nobody much would otherwise have noticed they were there.  But hey, the punch-'em-in-the-face school of politics was ever close to your heart, hein?  Soul mates.  Separated at birth.  Political idiocy.

Is what is below, quoted from the same post, a conscious or unconscious self-revelation on Basher's part in his own description of his treatment of his wife?

Kath, my wife and I, saw the stand as we were walking through town after a very nice lunch together.  She was so angry I had to hold her arm to stop her saying something.

Frightening.  Get help.

Kath, my wife and I, saw the stand as we were walking through town after a very nice lunch together.She was so angry I had to hold her arm to stop her saying something. Kath, my wife and I, saw the stand as we were walking through town after a very nice lunch together.She was so angry I had to hold her arm to stop her saying something. 

Kath, my wife and I, saw the stand as we were walking through town after a very nice lunch together.She was so angry I had to hold her arm to stop her saying something. 

Kath, my wife and I, saw the stand as we were walking through town after a very nice lunch together.She was so angry I had to hold her arm to stop her saying something. 

Kath, my wife and I, saw the stand as we were walking through town after a very nice lunch together.She was so angry I had to hold her arm to stop her saying something. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

missing the point

well, possibly, unless the house is legally owned and occupied and paid for not with money looted from the people of Libya.  Quite a lot of unless.  But the killing is going on.  Ras Lanuf appears to have been retaken with serious loss of life.  Is this genocide?  No.  Is it civil war?  Probably, of a kind.  Is it savage reprisal against an uprising?  Almost certainly.  The UN has met and gone "oh dear".  Cameron is being a pussy, and not of the lolcats kind.  Obama too.  Hillary Clinton has said the US supports the rebels in Libya.  With what?  The West seems to be divided between the "I'll hold your coat" and "Leave it Gary, he's not worth it" pub car-park fight schools of argument.  I'm waiting for someone to go "Right that's it I'm not f***ing having this".  And the killing goes on.  Gaddafy has allegedly sent envoys to Cairo, Athens and Vienna to seek mediation efforts.  But who will talk to whom?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Christopher Jefferies

remember, he is the bloke who looked a bit strange and who was arrested in connection with the murder of Joanna Yeates and later released - another man was charged. I posted about it here.
He cannot now go back to Bristol and his flat is up for sale for £275. His life has been ruined. The man the police think actually did kill Joanna is behind bars and will receive due process. More than Mr Jefferies has done. For shame.

happy fashion week

Ceci n'est pas John Galliano
Hat-tip the Normster for this from the New York Times.  It is almost too annoying to read to the end - it is written by an academic who is also writing a "cultural biography" of Coco Chanel, go figure - but its premise, to save you the bother, is that there is something inherently fascist about fashion (yes, yes, John Galliano, on whom I have refrained from commenting), which is why more than one French fashion house collaborated with the Vichy regime during the war.   You know, charismatic leading figures, the cult of fitness and the body beautiful, cool uniforms, that sort of thing.  First, not every business which stayed open in Vichy France should be described as a collaborator.  There was the small matter of making a living.  And didn't French women living in occupied France deserve nice clothes?  But leaving that aside, why fashion?  Why not sport? Hitler thought sport was political, and so, most of the time, it is.  Why not the car industry (turning out identical machines to enslave the population) or plastics (robbing the people of their artisan heritage)?  What bollocks.  The article suggests that John Galliano, in dressing himself like a pirate or a highwayman and purporting, at least when drunk, to be the arbiter of what people in Paris bars should look and dress like, and Karl Lagerfeld, in dressing like an 18th-century Prussian officer, are promoting a fascist ideal.  Quadruple bollocks.  Fashion isn't any more fascist than coal-mining or software development.  Or any less.  It is an industry. 

French people mostly dress exceedingly boringly.  Chic there is, but boring there also is.  I put it down to French schoolchildren not wearing uniforms.  They can wear what they like to school, but "within reason" (there is a debate every year about what slogans might be unacceptable on T-shirts), so they play safe.  Coats are black, and scarves (worn from La Rentree in September till at least April) are Very Big.  Jeans are skinny.  The cultural notions around underwear are hard to understand.  I read an article in French Marie-Claire recently by a working mother, who said she was so busy and hard pressed she sometimes didn't even wear matching bra and knickers!  Imagine that! 

Fashion. Fascism.  The two words start with the same two letters in English, but that is all they have in common.  So there. 

Sunday, 6 March 2011

a different kind of racism

hatred of DA JOOZ for being DA JOOZ is obviously a racist sentiment. Equally obviously it is the only obviously racist sentiment to be OK on DA LEFT. But, as David Baddiel suggests, it is a different kind of racism because it is high status. It is not just said that Jews are Bad People, but also that they Control The World. So it is OK to hate them as an ethnic group. Because they are the enemy of those obviously Good People and Bastions of Human Rights as, er, Ahmedinejad, and, er, oh all right then, Hamas. Oh and remember "We Are All Hezbollah Now"?

Friday, 4 March 2011


Cllr Warren Swaine has what is below to say about Cllr Ruhemann's remarks.

Pete Ruhemann is suddenly a sensitive soul.

It is a fact that he used the word "Quisling" personally against the Lib Dem group leader pointing his finger whilst he said it. All pretty unambiguous you would have thought. Except he seems to be wriggling like a worm on a hook. His defence seems to be "but sir, he called us names first".

His Master's Voice has picked this up in their usual fashion but I cannot be bothered to link to it or quote it, it's hardly journalism, after all.  "Quisling" is usually I think used to mean a traitor and/or collaborator with the enemy, the latter probably being what Cllr Ruhemann meant.  Leaving aside the notion that if the LibDems get into government they are somehow collaborating with an enemy, rather than going into government because enough people voted for them to make it possible for them to do so, it seems good to shed some light on these expressions which are often bandied about in politics, too often by people who do not know what they are talking about.

Vidkun Quisling was the chief minister of the government of Norway from 1942 to 1945, appointed by the German authorities.  As such you could say that he was a collaborator with the enemy, and certainly he was tried after the war for high treason and executed by firing squad.  But Norway's sympathies at that time were variable, there was no concerted resistance, and British troops parachuting in behind the lines were killed by Norwegians.  And the leaders of governments in other occupied countries were not executed for treason.  So it is not that simple.  The use of "quisling" to mean "traitor" comes from an editorial in a UK newspaper around that time "Quislings everywhere".  These days many people think "quisling" means "hypocrite or two-faced person", as the comments on the HMV piece show, and it is possible that Cllr Ruhemann meant it that way too.  But the Ruhpeople should get their use of epithets straight.  First we had Lovelock with "beyond the pale", using an apartheid idiom to attack a supposedly racist remark.  Now Ruhemann using an idiom from the Second World War Nazi occupation of Norway to attack a LibDem councillor for going into coalition.  Imagine their breakfast table.  Over the Cheerios and toast: "What next, Pete?  You use Holocaust imagery when you have a go at Cllr Willis' traffic light policy, and I'll talk about the killing fields of Whitley when I criticise coalition policy on the Excellence Cluster."  "Splendid idea, Jo. Then we'll go round and draw Hitler moustaches on all the pictures of the front bench councillors."


Thursday, 3 March 2011

a correspondent writes

Hello Jane.
I've just, belatedly, read the Reading Chronicle's report about Cllr Swaine's alleged racism, and found a real classsic.
"Cllr Lovelock said that his remarks were 'beyond the pale'".

(Has she the nous to say that deliberately?)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

more from Moorlands

somebody calling herself (on Facebook) Angela May Was Weston sent me this message yesterday, when I asked her what the head teacher of Moorlands school in Reading had done wrong:

my god, you want me to comment after the jibes you have put on your blog about Heidi Craske, you must think this is one big game and are enjoying every bit of it, you are not interested in the facts however much you dress it up, you just want to get one over on Malcolm Powers and basically dont give a stuff who you tread on in the meantime. At the end of the day this was not racist at all, i don't know how many times it needs to be said, and it is about our childrens welfare and education, do you really have to be so nasty or is this falling on deaf ears
and my reply was this:
Ms Craske has made a fool of herself in her own words, no jibes from me, and yes, I certainly am enjoying myself, but I am also very interested in the facts, but if no-one involved in the press launch of the petition wants to mention any of the facts then they will remain unmentioned here and on my blog, and as for Malcolm Powers, "getting one over" on him would be like poking jelly with a stick, life is too short. "Not racist", jolly good, glad to hear it, do I have to be so nasty, not at all, I have not started yet, could be REALLY nasty if in the mood, but today is a nice sunny day so I don't think I'll bother. So what did this teacher, who has now been pushed out of her job because Mr Powers and his team were too spineless to take any action, do wrong exactly? *sound of tumbleweed*

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

and what if they hadn't?

Bush n'Blair that is, persuaded Libya to de-nuke (the Libyan leadership now thinks it was robbed, and it probably was, good).  The New York Times is interesting on this.  There are probably no weapons of mass destruction in Libya, and not much of any weapons at all, so although the fighting is going on, and Gaddafy's forces are trying to take back the towns which have fallen to the rebels, the two sides are effectively sharing the weapons the government had before.  It had better stop, and stop soon.  Both sides have gone too far to go back.  Hat-tip Marbury for the NYT. Marbury also rather wonderfully describes the Guardian's latest bout of Blair-hating as a "mix of personalised poison and adolescent self-loathing", vg.

Someone posted elsewhere that they needed an opinion about Libya.  Simples.  (Yes, I know most things are not).  Guns turned on own people - Bad Thing.  Anyone starts with that malarkey they must be Removed.  PDQ.

Any questions?