Sunday, November 19, 2006

New Labour.... New Piper

Well... not quite.

But this site has now moved. You can read the blog on it's new site at

If you previously linked to this site... now is the time to change your links.

If you wait a few seconds you will be redirected automatically....

Unfortunately the previous comments have not transferred, so if you want to trawl back through all those Micky Oakeshott gems... you'll just have to come back here.

Clanger ridden Maude strikes again

Not for the first time in his life, Tory Party Chairman Francis Maude appears to have dropped a clanger. US economist Irwin Selzer once said of Maude...: "I do hope that the remaining members [of the Tories' council of economic advisers] will help you to improve the forecasting skills that led you to predict a recession immediately before the nation's rate of economic growth soared and unemployment began to fall." Well, now it is being reported that...

The investment trust that has cost Tory party chairman Francis Maude dearly in terms of publicity may have also put him seriously out of pocket. Jubilee Investment Trust - which catapulted Maude, a director, into the tabloids after it was revealed it had invested in a porn star's DVD empire - is now set to wind up following almost four years of marked underperformance that has see it lose three quarters of its original capital.

And this is the man that Wee Wullie Hague appointed to be Shadow chancellor and shadow economic affairs secretary. I bet Gordon used to shake in his boots every time he came up against this incometent across the despatch box.

Normal service is resumed...

Apologies to those who tried to get to this site yesterday and couldn't. I attempted to migrate to beta blogger, but in doing so the system completely wiped my template clean. Fortunately I had backed it up a couple of months ago, so although some of the links disappeared, I was able to recover it. If yours has gone, let me know and I'll put it back on, although in the next couple of weeks I am flitting blogger to a new design and host anyway.

But it is a lesson... don't forget to copy your template into a word processor every now and then.

Lack of respect

Iain Dale in an outrageous piece on his blog questions the courage of British soldiers in Iraq. How easy it must be from the comfort of your computer in Essex to question the bravery of people who are risking their lives on a daily basis. I've had a lot of time for Iain in the past. He doesn't seem that bad a chap... for a Tory, (unlike many of the serious sociopaths who inhabit his comment columns) but to type a post which even appears to suggest that these soldiers may be too frightened to ask a simple question is contemptible, and they deserve an apology.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Like it

(via Bench)

The "little fat geezer" is dead

For people of 'a certain age' the notion that George Best was football's first superstar never really rang true. The fabulous Real Madrid side that slaughtered Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the European Cup Final in 1960 contained at least two genuine world class superstars. Alfredo di Stefano and the man who died this morning, Ferenc Puskas.

When the Hungarian side arrived at Wembley in 1953 to play an England side undefeated by continental opposition on their home soil, Malcolm Allison, Dave Sexton and a few of the young West Ham players went down to watch the Hungarians train. "Look at that little fat geezer" Sexton quoted Allison saying as they watched Puskas jog around, "we'll murder this lot."

Well, England were well and truly stuffed 6-3. One of the goals which I'm sure will feature in the tributes came about when the "little fat geezer" put his foot on the ball in the six yard box, tempted England golden boy Billy Wright into a sliding lunge, dragged the ball back with the sole of his foot as Wright went sliding by, "like a fire engine going to the wrong fire" according to sports journalist Geoffrey Greene, before calmly turning the ball in to the net .

Life and Death

In Britain, a trade unionist might face dismissal for standing up for his or her beliefs. In Colombia, it can mean a death sentence ...
Jeremy Dear on a life and death struggle in Columbia. No doubt we can expect Columbia to be added to the axis of Evil.

John's alternative..

Well.... there's one hell of a lot of good stuff contained in ... John McDonnell's Alternative Queen's Speech. Certainly sufficient to enable 44 Labour MPs to try to get Gordon Brown to say whether he would favour these measures, and if not... why.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Blue by Joni Mitchell has long been one of my favourite albums, and River one of my favourite tracks on the album. It is also featured on the latest Madeleine Peyroux album, Half The Perfect World, and believe it or not, she gives Joni a run for her money.

Another terrific album by Madeleine... with even a cover of Tom Waits' (lookin for) The heart of Saturday Night

Phone Mast Blight

Does anyone out there know whether there is any legal precedent for someone taking either a mobile phone mast company, or a local authority, to court for compensation for blighting their property and affecting its valuation when it is sold?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Stock Stories

I rather liked this piece about The Rise and Fall of the "Bus Plunge" Story. The Birmingham Mail used to do a lot of these 'stock' stories designed to fill a slow news day, particularly in the run up to Christmas. "Police warn shoppers of IRA Xmas bomb plot" used to be dragged out every year in December. I presume we will get a warning sometime over the next month of a "Islamist bomb plot" in the run up to the festive season. It seems strange that we never seem to see this sort of story immediately before an actual bomb explodes. Then a few days before Xmas the "Shops enjoy Xmas shopping boom" only to be followed in mid January by a stock story quoting the Chamber of Commerce griping about the worst Xmas for shopping (since the previous year's worst shopping figures, presumably). Anyway, I'm going to scan the papers for a few bus plunge stories.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Due process

A post over at The Stirrer caught my eye about Planning Officers holding meetings in private with developers and Sport England about some land just across the border from here, Harborne, in Birmingham. One bit that stood out was there appears to be a letter that Sport England have saying that proposals to develop part of the playing field “did receive support in principle from the City Council’s planning officers.”

Two Tory councillors for Harborne deny any knowledge of either the meeting, or the letter... but given the allegation that...
it’s even been claimed that council leader and Harborne councillor Mike Whitby was present, although this has not been confirmed
I suspect we haven't heard the last of this little kerfuffle.

It's a question of balance

Apparently, sex on TV doesn't appeal. I blame those flat screen televisions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ref hit by coin tossers

Alan Sheffield, the linesman who was felled by coin tossers at the Newport County and Swansea FA Cup tie at the weekend, is quoted in the Birmingham Evening Mail as saying that he feared the worst. I knew that comment had been made up the moment I read it... after all, I know Alan and he must have been through worse than that... after all, he works for Walsall Council!

Alan Sheffield -
attacked by tossers

Testing Times

I commented yesterday on Barry Beef's suggested England XI for the Ashes...
"Axe Trescothick for Christ sake and open with Cook and Strauss and use Collingwood as the occasional bowler... although any 'occasional' bowler, even against the Aussie tail, is one bloody big risk. But Trescothick is shot, anyway, (that could come back and bite me on the arse) and will give way in any even. Michael Vaughan, My Lord, is on the way back."
Well, it looks like my arse is safe from a biting for the time being, because Trescothick has made the decision himself. I wish him well for the future, but I suspect this must finally be the end of his Test career.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Political links

A new site for political blog junkies... Political Opinions.

Radio Days

Paulie over at Never Trust a Hippy gives a plug for the Charlie Gillett Radio Show on the World Service, and he invites you to spend some time over the next few days listening to the latest show with "the electrifying Aynur (a Turkish Kurd singer) and Chango Spasiuk, an Argentinean accordianist with Ukranian roots." OK, might not be everybody's cup of cocoa, but hey, give it a try by listening on the BBC website. Of course, if I was a less than scrupulous person, I could advise you to grab a copy of Audacity which would not only let you listen to the programme but also to record it to your hard drive, edit particular tracks you may like, and even export them to your MP3 player, including I-pods which are notoriously fickle about these things.

Smack it to them one more time...

Following on from the previous piece relating to David Davis' press release (oops, sorry, I mean Iain Dale's blog piece) about prisoners receiving compensation for ill-treatment, Iain's comment page on this item is a cracker. The comments vary from the apoplectic outraged Tory backwoodsmen through to people putting forward some rational pieces about the inadequacy of David Davis's response... the best of which is from jaihouselawyer, who actually knows what he is talking about:
Reid may well be suffering humiliation. However, David Davis has failed to act like a true opposition on this issue. The government acted illegally, the prisoners acted legally. What part of this does David Davis fail to understand? His line of attack should not have been against prisoners who are being law-abiding, but directed at those who are responsible for breaking the law in this issue. David Davis has only made the situation worse by his senseless remarks which add insult to injury. Is it any wonder that such crass stupidity does not deserve to be in government? Why should we replace one knee-jerking Home Secretary with another, who suffers from the speak first without thinking about it, and without seeking advice from those who know more about the subject?

One good smack deserves another

Iain Dale posts a populist little piece appealing to the base instincts of Daily Mail readers of his blog about the news that the Home Office has settled out of court in a case about the ill-treatment of prisoners. "Nice to know that the taxpayer's hard earned pennies will be used to shoot up a bit of 'smack', isn't it?" says liberal conservative Iain Dale. Glass houses.... stones, anyone? When will Dave answer the question?

The long war

One Friday night in 2003, whilst "shock and awe" blitzed Bagdhad, I was shouted down in our Constituency Labour Party meeting for saying that the US and Britain could defeat the Iraqi army in a matter of days, in the same way as Israel had defeated Egypt and its allies back in 1967. But Israel was still fighting that war over 35 years later, and the so-called coalition faced the gravest danger of being emeshed in a long drawn out and bloody conflict in Iraq. The parallels, of course, are not entirely co-incidental, as Peter Preston writing in The Guardian says, resolving the Israel-Palestinian situation will not on its own necessarily defeat al-Qaida, but without a resolution to that conflict, peace in that region and beyond will not be possible.
Maybe bringing peace to the Middle East after over half a century of vicious strife wouldn't bring total generation shift, the lessening of a fury, the erasure of hatred. But it would be a beginning, a symbol, a chance to start afresh.

Q & A with Jack Straw

Jack Straw answers readers questions in The Independent.
Donald Rumsfeld, an architect of the Iraq war, has resigned. As its principal UK apologist, did you ever consider resigning?


Whatever became of the left-leaning radical young Jack Straw, now buddies with the likes of Condoleezza Rice?

I had friends across the political divide then. I am very much the same person.

Teenage dreams

Wisden editor and journalist Matthew Engel lost his 13-year old son to cancer two years ago and later wrote this heart-wrenching piece about the loss of his best friend in The Guardian. Engel started the 'Laurie Engel Fund' with the intention of raising £100,000 towards the £2 million cost of a specialised teenage unit at Birmingham Children's Hospital where Laurie was treated. It will provide six beds and top-notch facilities for the patients, including internet access, entertainment area, kitchen and a “chill zone”. It will offer teenagers having treatment privacy when they need it – and the chance to be sociable, and just be teenagers, when they need that. Six teenagers are diagnosed as suffering from cancer every day in the UK.

Well, the fund has raised over £400,000 so far, and the unit has been transformed from a dream to a reality.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Again, and again, and again and again

"Willie McBride died 1916"
Well how do you do young Willie McBride?
Do you mind if I sit here down by you're grave side?
And rest for a while 'neath the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day and now I'm nearly done.

I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in nineteen sixteen
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean
Or young Willie McBride was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did the sound the dead march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers Of the Forest'?

Did you leave 'ere a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And although you died back in nineteen sixteen
In that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?

Or are you a stranger without even a name?
Enclosed and forgotten behind a glass pane,
In an old photograph torn battered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame.

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did the sound the dead march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers Of the Forest'?

The sun now it shines on the Green Fields Of France,
There's a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance,
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds,
There's no gas, no barbed wire, there's no gun firing now.

But here in this grave yard it's still No Mans Land,
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand,
To mans blind indifference to his fellow man,
To a whole generation that was butchered and damned.

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did the sound the dead march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers Of the Forest'?

Young Willie McBride I can't help wonder why?
Do those that lie here know why did they die?
And did they believe when they answered the call?
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?

The sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying was it all done in vain?
For young Willie McBride it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again and again.

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did the sound the dead march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers Of the Forest'?

Did the band play 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers Of the Forest'?
Eric Bogle's No Man's Land (The Green Fields of France). I particularly like the version by The Men They Couldn't Hang.
According to Wikipedia, "Piet Chielens, coordinator of the In Flanders Fields War Museum in Ypres, Belgium, and organizer of yearly peace concerts in Flanders, once checked all 1,700,000 names that are registered with the Commonwealth War Commission. He found no less than ten Privates William McBride."

Cameron sucks

The Tory Party House Magazine claims that the boy Dave is sucking up to the trade unions with his latest piece of "Forgive us for Mrs Thatcher" gimmickry. Sadly they are unable to report what the trade unions said as they left the room sniggering up their sleeves. Whatever reservations the trade unions have about Labour, and they justifiably have many, any notion that they would even offer to urinate on Dave's head if was on fire, is entirely a fiction in the minds of Conservative Party PR people and media hacks.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nick Griffin is a failure

PoliticalHack asks the questions... How useless do you have to be as the leader of the BNP to fail to be convicted of inciting racial hatred? Didn't anyone tell you that that is pretty much the job description?

Time for the fourth option

Any councillor in an inner city area will tell you tales of horror about 'publicly rented' housing. Not necessarily about the run down state of the housing stock, although repairs and maintenance are a big issue, but the sheer desperation of the homeless as 3 decades of under investment in social housing takes its toll. More and more councils feel the need to accept the bribes to divest themselves of the housing they have left after the 'right to buy', private sector landlords are rubbing their hands with glee and coining it in. But not all tenants are falling for the 'jam tomorrow' glossy publicity. Residents in council housing are standing up to government efforts to sell off their homes. Good for them, say I.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tom Traubert's Blues

What an achievement

Credit where credit is due, I say. Birmingham City managing director Karren Brady has turned Birmingham City from a club just outside of the top flight of English football into what they are today... a club just outside of the top flight of English football. What more could be worthy of the title of Women Who have Changed The World.


We have long had a problem in Sandwell with flytipping, but I have to admit flykipping was a new one to me.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

That's a relief

'Stella does admit she gets tired at the end of a hard shit but admits she would not want to be doing anything else.'
Stolen from Fisking Central, who owned up to stealing it from Private Eye, who found it in the Solihull Observer.

Stand in a Queue Day

Some of you may remember the site I referred to a couple of months ago devoted to people standing in a queue. Well, today is national Stand in a Queue Day. So if you are in a queue and have a mobile with a camera (or even a camera) handy, why not take a snap and send it in to the site before 13th November and get your piccy published.

Pants on fire

You might want to bookmark this page and if you have elections next May, read it in April when canvassers in the local elections knock on your door (via Bench). It may also be useful reading for others.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A gonner here?

Luke, meanwhile, feels sorry for Saddam's old buddy and finds the gloating distasteful ... and he has a hunch that "history will say Rumsfeld made all of us a lot safer." Well, that makes me feel safer.

I don't want to go to Chelsea

My prejudice knows no bounds. I detest Chelsea. I despise everything about their soul-destroying, peasant-plundering, oil-pimping, wallet-waving, pitch-ruining, ref-abusing, knee-falling, opponent-cussing ways.
Absolutely right.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Can I say straight away, I will not be staying up waiting with baited breath, to find out whether one redneck from Wyoming has beaten another redneck from Wyoming. No doubt for the next week the polling anoraks will be telling us how exciting it is, how significant the result is for the future of the Western democracies and beyond... but excuse me... I couldn't give a stuff! Two pro-market Northern Americans punching each others lights out for billions of dollars... I'd rather watch the Heavyweight boxing championship... and I don't give a stuff about that either.

There are much more interesting things happening in the world. This one about the Scottish donkeys certainly gets pride of place for me.

In his hour of need

Perhaps Saddam Hussein would have had a better chance of avoiding a date with the hangman for his crimes in 1982 if he had called some character witnesses. I don't just mean Gorgeous George who could testify to Saddam's 'indefatigable strength and courage' either. John Pilger suggests a few of Hussein's mates who may still be able to help in the event of an appeal:
When I was in Iraq in 1999, I met an assistant hotel manager whose sardonic sense of western double standards was a treat.

"Ah, a journalist from Britain!" he said. "Would you like to see where Mr Douglas Hurd stayed, and Mr David Melon - (he meant Mellor) - and Mr Tony Newton, and all the other members of Mrs Thatcher's government... These gentleman were our friends, our benefactors."

This man has a collection of the Iraqi English-language newspaper, the Baghdad Observer, from the "good old days". Saddam Hussein is on the front page, where he always is. The only change in each photograph is that he is sitting on his white presidential couch with a different British government minister, who is smiling a smile uncannily similar to that of his murderous host.

There, in yellowing print, is Douglas Hurd twice - on the couch and on page two, bowing before the tyrant. And there is the corpulent David Mellor, also a Foreign Minister, on the same white couch in 1988. While Mellor, or "Mr Melon" as the assistant manager preferred, was being entertained by Saddam Hussein, his host ordered the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the town of Halabja. News of this atrocity the Foreign Office tried to suppress and the US State Department tried to blame on Iran. "Please give Mr Melon my greetings," said the assistant manager.
Come on, Mr Melon. No 6-0-6 to fill your time these days, surely you could help out an old mate in his time of need.

Talk of Mellor inspires me to re-post this link.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A good question

Eastcliff Matters asks the question: "Will David Cameron take Britain out of the European Social Chapter?" The answer, it seems, is yes.

The BOB's Awards.... (Best of the Blogs) ... vote for Slugger!

Street Art

The National Survey into "The Use of Community Art Projects and Murals as a
Means of Controlling Graffiti" that was commissioned by has been completed. The results are available online

Short answers

Could you please explain how you campaign for a hung parliament and how I vote for one?
Clare Short answers readers' questions in The Indy. Well, she doesn't answer that one.

Roy Hattersley on directly elected Mayors
seems to argue for spending vast amounts of public money to allow people to say 'No'. My concern is much more that in some areas we will end up with media favourites or 'celebrity' candidates being elected, and we end up transferring all executive functions to a bloke in a monkey suit or a radio dj.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who eat all the pies?

Following my comments about the "prawn sandwich" brigade at Liverpool last week, this week I have experienced life at the sharp end at Villa Park. Courtesy of BaggyMP, Mrs P. and a couple of other Sandwell Labour people I enjoyed the corporate executive facilities in the Trinity Road boxes to watch a truly dreadful Blackburn Rovers side get the thrashing they surely deserved. The lunch was good, the wine was plentiful, (although I couldn't see any bovril on show) and we won 2-0. I thought I had better declare it before Tom posted the photos on his blog... a good day out all round.

Time travel

John Humphrys on why his parents had no fear of global warming.

Also, I know I've said this before, but does The Independent have to have a crisis a day just to fill up its front page? It really does dull the instinct.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Luke's Backing Blears

Luke Akehurst thinks that Hazel Blears should be the Labour Party Deputy Leader. Luke's only reservation is that Hazel might be some way to the left of him. Don't laugh.... instead, read the demolition of Luke's suggestion by the Ministry of Truth.

Splash the cash

Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948 has been sold for about £74 million. "Jack the Dripper" as he was known by some had an unusual style, to say the least. Try it yourself .... there's money in them there splashes.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Notes and Queries

Could you yank your head off? A different sort of deadhead. I was always a bit nervous around science and medical students, and now I know why.

If you thought that was weird, try building your own Rubiks cube costume.

Singing in Bahrain

Although Downing Street refused a Freedom of Information request from The Times to reveal details of the gifts given by Tony Blair to President Bush, it seems the White House is not so shy, and publishes lists of the gifts anyway. However, no wonder Bush liked his sweater, because the rest of Tone's gifts are pretty crappy. Some other world leaders are much more imaginative...
King Abdullah of Jordan has given the President six jars of “various fertilisers”, while the Sultan of Brunei’s gifts included a DVD of Singing in the Rain and the President of Tunisia offered a large box of dates.
So, you'll know better than to invite Abdullah round for Xmas dinner!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ken for Deputy

I know this will horrify some people (a fair number of whom will be Labour Party members), and I also know it will not happen. I was reading the piece in The Guardian today about Ken Livingstone and climate change when I thought, I wonder why Ken doesn't stand for the Deputy Leadership of the Party? Jon Cruddas has indicated he would like to disconnect the Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister's role, so there is no reason why the Party's Deputy Leader should be an MP. Nor am I sure whether the Party rules state that the Deputy Leader has to be an MP... but there are so many rule book anoraks out there that someone is bound to let me know soon.

Ken would provide a political counterbalance to a Leader from the right (I'm assuming we will not get a left Leader), and he would provide the Party outside of Parliament with someone to put forward alternative views. Also, he understands local government and local politics, which seems to be something sadly lacking in the national leadership these days. Yes, Ken seems (a bit like Thatcher) to have people who either love him or loath him, but judging by the London elections there are more in the former category. Over the years his support for unpopular causes such as gay and minority rights and talking to Sinn Fein, should have meant, with the London-based media spitting out bile against him, that Ken was dead and buried, politically... but he is a survivor. His support for subsidised public transport and the congestion zone also means that unlike the boy Dave on his bike, Ken has been in the environment game for the long run, not short term political expediency.

On the downside there are some who have never/will never forgive Ken for standing as an Independent against Dobbo for London Mayor (Luke Akehurst would be apoplectic if the Party chose Ken) and there are those who think he overstepped the mark with his offensive comments to the Standard journo. But hey, shouldn't the right have to make compromises for victory too?

I'm in the money...

Yippee. No more working for a while. Nor can you expect many blog entries from me for a week or two. I've just received an E-Mail telling me I've won £1.5 million in the UK National Lottery. All I've got to do is send some details to M. Emily Zondi in Doncaster. My winning number was 08 15 30 31 34 43 30.

Where did I get that number from? I didn't buy a ticket... perhaps someone bought one for me. I haven't had this much luck since the last e-mail I got from that Nigerian fellah who wanted my bank details so that he could smuggle his ill gotten gains out of the country.

Emily.... sod off!