Friday, March 31, 2006

You've got to admire the Tories for sheer bare-faced cheek. Iain Dale, aspirant Tory MP, clears the Tories of any sleaze in the loans row, because they've named the people who made loans... and none of them have been nominated for honours. All well and good... except they haven't, actually done that. They have paid back some of the scoundrels to avoid telling us who they are. Highly dubious, eh?.

Also, if these people make loans on commercial terms... why not borrow from a commercial source?

Behind those lace curtains... there's a lot of misery

Yes, Sutton Coldfield might consist of some of Birmingham's wealthiest leafy suburbs. Yes, properties out there can cost over a million quid each. OK, so Birmingham's inner city areas have considerable deprivation... but the Tory-Lib Dem alliance that conspire to run the City Council know their priorities. Who said 'election bribe'? How dare you.
The last four weeks before the elections are usually bedlam. Over the next month we have to deliver about 22,000 leaflets and knock on every door in the Ward. As with most political parties, there are only a handful of volunteers willing to go out every evening and risk abuse on the doorstep. Most politicians are acutely aware that we are just below estate agents, parking wardens and the legal profession in the food chain as far as the public are concerned, and given the recent evidence of some of our more high profile members it is a reputation which has been well earned, and will no doubt be flung in our faces many times over the next month. If I had a quid for every time someone had said, "you're all the same" I would not be on my uppers, that's for sure. Despite this, I actually enjoy canvassing. It's more often than not about issues that people care about in THEIR community. Not about the war in Iraq, whether the Japanese buy the stock exchange or whether we have ID cards, compulsory or otherwise. Those things are on people's radar screens, but they ain't looking to me or my opponents to solve them. They want something done about the dogshit on the pavement, they want their council house modernisation done properly, they want decent schools, local hospitals, proper care of their elderly relatives... and they don't want to see their annual pay rise eaten up in council tax. Call them parochial at your peril. For every one person I meet who will mention ID cards on the doorstep, there are 1,000 who either want them or couldn't give a toss one way or the other (but would prefer the zillions they will cost to be spent on our pensioners). Ah well, here we go, here we go, here we go.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A list of things that Alfred the OK has or hasn't eaten. What... no burnt cake?
The News of the Screws and their fake sheikh routine attempt to screw George Galloway, but George says he was too cute for them. Leave it out lads, if you want to hear George spouting outrageous remarks, just tune in to Talksport on Saturday and Sunday evenings... it's much cheaper than the Dorchester.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's George W. Bush, the accidental revolutionary. How George Bush unified a Continent, or Che rides again (on a mountain bike). Thanks to the Brummie Buddha.
Free down load of Billy Bragg's 'The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie'. A tribute to the US peace activist who was mudered in Gaza three years ago whilst trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer from tearing down a Palestinian physician's home. The lyrics refer to the chicken-hearted decision by a New York theatre to indefinitely postpone a play based on Rachel's words. More on Rachel Corrie here.

The tune was borrowed from Bob Dylan. and while we're on the theme...
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

Mr Caspar Weinberger, Master of War, honoured by Thatcher, bites the dust.

A worthy site for Liberal Democrats everywhere.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"It would be quite nice if the American ambassador in Britain could pay the charge that everybody else is paying and not try and [evade] it like some chiseling little crook." Get off the fence, Ken. Say what you mean.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Michael Crick exposed 'Dave' to some serious questioning on Newsnight tonight about the Tory loans for peerages candidates. Crick asked 'Dave' why he didn't contact them to ask their permission to use their names. "You are a digital politician" pressed Crick, "Why don't you text them, or send them an e-mail." 'Dave' made the mistake of just trying to walk away or ignore Crick, bringing to mind that splendid instance when Prisoner FF8282 did the same thing.
"And what role are the occupiers playing in all of this? It’s very convenient for them, I believe. It’s all very good if Iraqis are abducting and killing each other- then they can be the neutral foreign party trying to promote peace and understanding between people who, up until the occupation, were very peaceful and understanding."

The Baghdad Burning blog has been nominated for a literary award.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Over the years we have pored over his every utterance for the word 'sorry'. Tagging on to Dubya's coat tails, 45-minute warnings, the suicide of poor hounded David Kelly, the whole Hutton fiasco, WMD & the illegal invasion.... all things which I suspect the nation as a whole, Labour or non-Labour, would have liked to hear the 'S' word dripping from those Prime Ministerial lips. There are those of us who just disliked the whole direction of travel in which TB took the Party (and the country). He doesn't have to apologise for that general direction. He never promised us socialism, and anyone who felt let down in that respect was not lied to, they were just deluding themselves. He could have survived all the rest of it, even the sleaze allegations which are still overshadowed by the Tories anyway, with his reputation intact. But Iraq was something else. On the night the 'shock and awe' began I told our constituency party meeting, "This will be Blair's legacy. The US and Britain can crush Saddam in a matter of weeks. Over 30 years ago the Israeli military might did the same to the Arab nations of the Middle East, but nearly 40 years later their army is no closer to a solution than they were in 1968. This war will be Blair and Bush's Vietnam." But even now, the Prime Minister says he has no regrets. Even now he will not admit that the whole WMD fiction was, if not a lie, a giant blunder. The closest we have seen to any form of apology for anything Blair has done in nine years is dressed up as justification. He says he should have 'gone further, sooner' with his modernisation agenda.

Well, I live in hope. This could be the start of something big... but I don't think I'll hold my breath.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I gave George Galloway a first listen tonight on the odious Talksport. A mistake. George, in the same way he enthusiastically made a tart of himself on Celebrity Big Brother, seems to have adopted the populist broadcasting technique usually pumped out by his new employers. So, when introducing a programme in which he ranted, (sorry) defended the right of smokers to not only kill themselves but pollute the air for the rest of us too, George said words along the lines of…. “and now, this New Labour Government, which has not only legalised sodomy for 16 year olds, wants to take away people’s liberty to smoke.” Charming, George. Richard Littlejohn would be proud of you. Strangely, the Gorgeous one told us he was in the House of Commons when the vote was taken on the smoking ban in England (on a free vote, by the way, not a Government whip), but he neglected to tell us which way he voted. Anyone know? Oh, and whilst you're looking, did George vote to reduce the age of consent when he was a 'new Labour' MP.

Easy, Easy, Easy!

The Tories just don't seem to be able to stop themselves, do they? Labour score a massive own goal when Jack Dromey, facing the wrong way and confused about what to do, whacks the ball with laser-like precision into his own net, leaving custodian Blair more than a little distressed. Time for the Tories to press home their advantage, but no, not to be outdone, straight from the kick-off, the Tories win possession and start passing the ball backwards. Determined to show Labour that they are the real champions of sleaze, they smash the ball into their own net, and in such a in spectacular fashion, leaving the young keeper Cameron feeling as if he had joined Birmingham City instead. Then they bask in the glory for so long that people forget all about Dromey's ineptitude and start jeering the Tories again.

Friday, March 24, 2006

It takes a lot of patience, but you can do it. Don't shoot the puppy. Well, it is Friday afternoon. (via Wongablog)
Nice to see the Tory/Lib Dem coalition in Birmingham are trying to find imaginative ways of keeping the council tax down.

Last night we went to celebrate Andy Hamilton's 88th birthday at Corks Club in Bearwood. It was standing room only last night and Andy was in great form, and he genuinely looks as if he will still be blowing that sax when his century comes around. His actual birthday is on Sunday and he will be celebrating in style with The Blue Notes at The Drum at lunchtime.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

According to the Today programme some Scots are getting uptight over the national anthem being played when they win gold in Melbourne. I suppose the problem is the same for the English, although many of them seem to regard God Save the Queen as theirs anyway. Jerusalem has been the choice of many and certainly after the Ashes win last summer it seemed to have captured the popular imagination (although the Welsh players might argue about the Englishness of even the cricket team, never mind the anthem).

Personally, I've got no objection to God Save the Queen, but I think I would prefer this version.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It can't be easy replying to a budget speech. The Chancellor has months to prepare for it, and then as soon as he has finished you have to get up off your arse and try to deliver a killer blow. Most Leaders of the Opposition, quite understandably, struggle. Today, David Cameron gave the most vacuous and banal reply to a budget speech in living memory. It was truly pathetic. Full of barely discernible jokes, such as calling Brown an "analogue politician in a digital age" (I mean, come on, if you're going to do 'jokes', try to make them vaguely amusing) the reply contained barely a word about the things the Chancellor had just been speaking about. All this on top of what must have been the most ineffective PMQ's Cameron has had to date must surely have set senior Tories wishing they could turn the clock back a few months. I haven't witnessed a more trite and ineffective response to a budget speech since.... well, a couple of weeks at least, when Sandwell's own failing Tory Leader floundered around trying to read her budget reply speech that Central Office had written for her!
I'm all for supporting workers in struggle... but that is one hell of an expensive fart!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

100 years of hurt has given the bluenoses a dry and morbid sense of humour. During tonight's entertaining debacle the Liverpool fans started taunting them with a chant of "going down, going down, going down." Instead of rising to the bait, the noses replied, "So are we, so are we, so are we."
Monbiot gives just one more reason why we should scrap the House of Lord's... Jenny Tonge.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Letter in The Guardian from an Aston Villa supporter and expert political analyst (no, not me - this time) :

These latest revelations show there is now a two-tier Labour party. The official party with its elected officials and committees remains in place, but the real decisions are made in No 10. With membership at an all-time low and support ebbing in key areas, the justification for supporting Blair because he is electorally successful is becoming a thing of the past. The longer-term impact on the political process is more damaging. Voters may not react suddenly to the embrace of Tory policies, but Tory sleaze is a different matter. Blair came into office to clean up politics. He is now besmirched and the damage extends across the political spectrum. No doubt Jack Dromey will be under intense pressure to remain loyal. It is not just Labour supporters who will hope that he probes into the murk.
Trevor Fisher
I spent a couple of nights in Minsk a few years back on a tour of the Hero Cities... but it was closed. The highlight was a visit to one of the worst planetariums you could ever wish to see. A one hour commentary in Russian was only interuppted by the snoring of one English visitor. The Chief of police told me there had only been two car thefts in Minsk in the previous year... believe me, it was not hard to know why? So, when the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko says that the west would find it difficult to impose sanctions on his country, he's not kidding. These people know what hardship is like.
Perhaps it was my TV, I don't know. The sound seemed OK during the footy, but when the news came on, something seemed to happen to the sound. When David Cameron was asked if the Tories would be prepared to reveal whether any of their nominations for peerages had made loans to the party. I could swear there was a distinct squeaky sound which seemed to emanate from Cameron's buttock region. Is that what they mean by being squeaky clean?
One reform of party political funding I would like to see the Government introduce is one that says no public company should be allowed to make a donation to party political funds unless they ballot all of their shareholders, on a one shareholder, one vote basis. The trade unions have to ballot in order to allow their members to have a political fund, so why not introduce a ballot for company corporate donations.

Also, if trade unions deduct 10p a week from their members subs (subject to the members agreeing the deduction) and pay that to the political party of their choice, that's just over £5 a year. So, I think I would go along with smarmy Fox's plans to limit donations, but I don't see why the figure needs to be so high. If half a million UNISON members choose to give 10p a week to the Labour Party, that's £2.5 million a year. Add on all the other TUC affiliated! Should be enough for starters, and we can tell all these millionaire prospective Lords to bugger off back to the Tories and give us our Party back.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Is there a more boring 'sport' on the face of the earth than Formula 1 motor racing? Well, maybe. I mean, horse racing must be worth a shout. 20 minutes of watching the horses troop around the parade ground, 3 minutes of watching them sprint down the straight. In reality though, horse racing isn't a sport, it's just an excuse for people to gamble. For me, Formula 1 gets the vote by a very long street.

Way back in the mists of time the radical student campus was at the heart of the revolutionary movement. At the drop of a black beret students would occupy the Senate building all night eating pot noodles and rifling through the Vice-Chancellor's secret files on them (or his bank account details if the 'secret files' couldn't be found). A hotbed of militant middle-class Che Guevara's calling for a general strike and supporting 'the workers'in their class struggle. This just goes to show what happens when you open up the universities to the bloody working class. All they want to do is pass their sodding exams and get a good job in advertising. No class solidarity, that's their problem.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Brilliant and well deserving of the time the Speaker never gave him. Austin Mitchell reveals the best speech he never made.

"Thank you for allowing me to speak sat down - something which isn't necessitated by my socratic dialogue with the whips on this bill.

This isn`t a bill I can vote for. Indeed I voted against it when it first came in in 1987 as Kenneth Baker's Education Reform Act. That provided for choice, parent power, school opt outs and freedom from local education authority control. At the time Jack Straw called it an "obsessive vendetta aginst the rights of local commumities and their elected representatives to run their own schools and colleges in the way which suits their own areas best". His speech was so good I nearly gave it again today as my own but decided to leave plagiarism to the Department for Education.

The Bill is now much better than the White Paper and there are some good things in it like personalised tuition, school meals, better discipline, all sorts of things we'd have got anyway, but I can't vote for it.

This is a daft way of legislating. First a shabby White Paper filled with untested and unproved assertions, spelling mistakes, bad grammar and semi-literacy which indicates that the Department for Education could do with a little remedial teaching. Then the PM goes in for his technique of standing on a cliff (called Clause Four, Foundation Hospitals, 90 day detention, or Top Up Fees) and flings himself off, leaving the poor old Minister and the party to catch him. We always do because we love him so, though whether that will change now that there are so many Tory arms (a much better class of catcher) clamouring to do the job, I don't know. Then they bribe the grey men by conceding things which should never have been there in the first place and BINGO! Get your Second Reading and you've got your bill.

People tell me I should vote for it because it's all in the manifesto. It is: parent power, autonomy for schools, freedom from local bureaucracy and "choice drives up standards". Trouble is that's the Tory manifesto not ours.

This is a Tory bill, not Labour. I have to ask, what's in it for Grimsby? Not pushy parents in London but real people. The answer is not much. In my experience whatever benefits pushy parents and brighter, more academic kids doesn't help the working class, those with low aspirations or the underprivileged, all of whom need nurture not competition. Indeed doing everything for the bright and precious, little for the rest has been the basic problem of English education for years. Which is why we're in the mess we're in.

Which is also Grimsby's problem. Our difficulties with the bill are:

1. The gutless failure to scrap Eleven Plus selection in a bill which is supposed to be about stopping selection means that 120 or more kids a day will leave North East Lincolnshire, some in buses rather like Lenin's sealed train in 1917, to selective education in Lincolnshire. That's 120 able kids and 240 pushy parents taken out of NEL education. Indeed with the new impetus to choice that could rise. With the bus fares of poorer children being paid for six miles travel to the school of their choice, less well off kids in Irby, Beelsby, Hatcliffe, Aylesby and possibly parts of Laceby could get their fares paid by NEL ratepayers. Not a big number but still barmy.

2. Our secondary schools have been rapidly improving their performance. We're still below the national average but getting better. How will that be helped by competition? We'll probably have three academies (and I welcome that) but all will be competing with Toll Bar and Lindsey to improve their league ratings. The quickest way to do that is to recruit more able kids, not by selection but reputation and parental choice for glossy new schools. Which in turn takes ability away from the other schools and depresses their performance. To fight back they need more money, more staff, better teachers but all they'll get from this bill is faster closure. So for the Secretary of State to say this bill will do most for the underprivileged is just an exercise in spherical object production.

3. Trust schools. This is badly thought out as is shown by the fact that asked what schools were interested the DfE could produce only 25, one of which was Hereford, the school my kids went to, which had just made an enquiry rather as one might apply for a place in a holiday competition in Readers' Digest. The top school mentioned is Monkseaton whose Head, Paul Kelly, taught my son Jonathan media studies at Hereford, so I'm eternally grateful to him, but what he is really, and sensibly, asking for is an association with Microsoft, not for them to take over the school.

Trusts are really academy-lite or on the cheap. Academy founders have to put up £2 million. Many get honours as a reward. Trusts don't put up anything and may only get a balcony seat at the Labour Party Conference. They're regulated by the Schools Commissioner but he should be required to ensure first that power in the school is proportionate to contribution. They must avoid postcode preference with the upmarket trusts like Microsoft or the universities (though not Amstrad because no one's likely to want Alan Sugar now) going to the poshest areas. Trusts must be directed to under-privileged schools and areas if they're to be any use. There's no reason why they should be allowed to run schools or have a majority of governors. Only schools can run schools. Who they choose to help them and how is up to them.

4. Governors. I was a school governor thirty years ago. It was a doddle. Nod at what the Headmaster said. Smile and do as he wanted. Just like being on Labour's front bench. Since then more and more duties have been put on their shoulders. It demands more time and harder work. The job is too demanding for ordinary folk, and firms like Bird's Eye no longer pay their workers to do the job. So Governors must be paid, and by the local authority not out of school funds. Otherwise the only people we'll get - and it's particularly difficult to get governors at all in Grimsby - will be people with an axe to grind.

5. Under the bill the Local Education Authority has been given various strategic roles but no powers. The Government is relying on parent power. That doesn't help Grimsby where working class parents, indeed most parents, don't see it as their job to run schools. They're happy to leave that to the LEA, the Heads and the teachers. They trust them and indeed Labour LEAs have a good, proud record, particularly in spending more money than Tories. What the parents want is the assurance of a good school nearby, not choice, and certainly not running the schools themselves. So we need a clear, strong role for LEAs as the only body knowing local needs and problems. They need to define the catchment areas to get a good social mix in each school. Indeed, personally, I'd require those who want to opt for other areas to be picked by ballot. LEAs need to ensure that all schools of every type, including academies, take a fair and equal share of Special Education Needs and free dinner kids and have a common policy and performance on expulsions to avoid dumping problem kids in the way some academies have done.

I've written four letters to the Secretary of State making these points. Only one has been replied to. I've heard no arguments today to indicate that the bill can be improved to suit Grimsby's needs. In that situation it's my responsibility to vote against it."
Paul Linford has an interesting post which seems to be 'greasing the pole' for the yellow Tories to shaft Ming with after the next General Election. Linford suggests that if there is a hung parliament and the Tories were to be the largest party (and a bloody big 'if' that is, given that we are talking three years or more down the road and Smarmy Cameron's smile is already wearing thin) Ming would be reluctant to jump into bed with the Tories. Well, that need not trouble him unduly, because his chances of being leader of the Lib Dems by then must be waning by the week. Of course, if the people's choice for Lib Dem Leader, aging Lothario, John Hemming, was to get the leadership, we all know John will form a coalition with any idiot to get his feet under the table.
Supersize my Pay. New Zealand trade unions, flushed with success at organising a strike at Starbuck's, are squaring up to McDonalds. You can help.

Now.... is the winter of our discontent

There are those who think that the fuss over the Government's success in driving through the Education Bill with the help of the Tories is so much media froth, and that all will soon be forgotten. I have to say, I don't agree. There are those of us in the Labour Party who have long thought the PM was a Tory cuckoo in the Labour nest, what yesterday's fiasco did was to expose that even further. It is one thing in our first-past-the-post system for a government with a healthy majority to force its manifesto commitments through the House of Commons by whipping/bribing/threatening its members through the lobbies. It is altogether another thing for a government to force its policies through when it has to depend on the votes of the opposition. It poses the question, whose government is this?

The question is exacerbated by the 'loans for peerages' scandal, or whatever its latest name is? Grass roots party members, already horrified to know the sort of money that Cabinet Members can casually sign off on mortgages, or loans obtained from far-right politicians, are disgusted and mystified by a web of deception which is seemingly so shameful it is not even disclosed to the Party Treasurer.

If it is revealed that Blair knew all about this nonsense, and given that he nominates the Peers it is difficult to imagine he didn't, he should do the decent thing and fall on his sword. This is doing irreparable damage to his Government, even Gordon Brown must realise he will be associated with this in the public's mind, and untold damage to the Labour Party. As I think I have made apparent, I honestly don't care what happens to Tony Blair, and if Brown wants to sink with him, that's in his own hands. I do care for the thousands of Labour Party members who work bloody hard for the Party, and over the next six weeks will be out on the doorstep freezing our extermities off in the snow, trying to persuade people that we don't endorse the seedy goings-on by those who have spent so long rubbing shoulders with the wealthy they think they can behave like them. Elected Members on my Council, of all political shades, are not motivated by cash for questions, cash for peerages or any of the rest of the crap we have come to associate with the Westminster Village People. What's more, we are thoroughly sick to the back teeth of listening to Ministers who have no experience of local government lecturing us on how we should engage with local communities. If David Miliband thinks that listening to focus groups in Islington conference rooms gives him an insight into the daily grind of everyday people's lives, he's either deluding himself or trying to fool us.

Dromey has come out of the bushes, presumably because he feels he has been humiliated by this fiasco. But he is also (apart from Mr Harriet Harman) Deputy General Secretary of the TGWU. In two weeks time they will be calling on all of their members in local government to strike over broken promises on pensions. So will UNISON, the GMB and UCAAT. Over one million people could be out on strike, not against their individual employers, but against a Labour Government. Possibly the biggest concerted industrial action since the General Strike. It is time for the General Secretaries of these trade unions to say we want a Labour Government... but not any Labour Government in any circumstances. It is the link with the trade unions that keep many of us in the Labour Party. The trade union leaders have a choice; carry on putting up with this, or stand your ground.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

People keep asking: Why doesn't the Labour Party ditch Tony Blair? He is deeply unpopular, they say. Nobody believes a word he says, they continue. Well, those of us in the Party who would prefer the Prime Minister to pack up and spend more time with his mortgage, find it more difficult when the population as a whole don't agree with either us, or the handful of noisy Tory/Lib Dem bloggers who are going to change the world from their keyboards.

As the Labour Government prepares to enter its 10th year in office, opposed by two new opposition leaders; a fresh-faced old Etonian who does Tony Blair impressions and a crusty old Scot who does Alec Douglas-Home impressions, Labour under Blair is still in front in the opinion polls. Like it or not, under those circumstances, the Labour equivalent of the Tory Men in Grey Suits, are hardly likely to sidle up alongside the vain glorious Leader and tell him the writing is on the wall. It would be like Jose Mourinho retaining the Premiership title, receiving the adoration of the Chelsea hordes, only to have the Russian whisper in his ear that the game's up Jose, time to go.

Don't blame us. Perhaps you need to vote in a new electorate.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

According to Rupert Murdoch, we are the future. "I believe we are at the dawn of a golden age of information - an empire of new knowledge," he said, before announcing a $billion investment programme to try to make sure News International could ensure that whoever travelled on the information superhighway, the same people will own the tarmac and cream off the profits.

Is there a reason the new breed of 'liberty' bloggers seem so keen on appending quotes in their postings from libertarians with the most appallingly illiberal personal backgrounds? I suppose if it was alright for Marx to claim he wasn't a 'marxist' it is OK for the advocates of liberal elite democracies to have less than liberal tendencies themselves.
Oliver Kamm writes in defense of the war. He even manages to conclude that the fact there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction is of no consequence, because Saddam would have got round to developing them one day if the invasion hadn't taken place. A bit difficult to argue against such a hypothetical point, but it should be a sufficiently good excuse for future use. Watch out over there in Tehran.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

It would appear that Tory controlled Dudley Council want a bloody casino in Brierley Hill. Labour controlled Sandwell Council's Planning Committee have made it clear on three separate occasions that we do not want a monstrosity of a casino in my Ward, especially not an all-night, hideous monstrosity in a residential street, almost as far from the sea as it is possible to get in Britain, and supposedly decked out to look like an ocean liner. Why don't Blue Chip also bugger off to Dudley and leave us alone?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Art for Art's Sake... Money for God's Sake

A battle royal is raging over the funding for a spectacular (I'm told the exterior doesn't do it justice) arts centre in West Bromwich.

I am a bit ambiguous over this. I was critical of Birmingham City Council for concentrating regeneration on the City Centre, with ‘prestige’ projects like the International Conference Centre, Symphony Hall, the National Indoor Arena and the Bull Ring Shopping Centre. However, they have attracted ‘funny money’ funding that wouldn’t have been available for spending on housing, social services and a better general environment. Also, there is no doubt that these projects are gradually changing the image of Brum… and people do like visiting the City. Not to mention the 1,000’s of jobs that have been created.

Meanwhile, a similar debate is going on in Liverpool, which narrowly beat Birmingham in the competition for the European Capital of Culture.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fattening Frogs for Snakes

The Labour Government since 1997 has spent record amounts of money on the NHS. Despite the reservations of many of us within the Party about PFI and the so-called 'choice' agenda, the increase in doctors and nurses would be welcomed by most people, and the ending of poverty pay levels has been long overdue. However, opinion polls show figures as high as 90% of people want to retain a publicly run and publicly funded National Health Service. I even believe David Cameron when he says he supports the NHS. Certainly more than Lady Finchley who convinced no-one that the NHS was safe in her hands. Cameron does let himself down when he says he wants to "encourage more private sector participation in the NHS."

I think Cameron not only lets himself down, he loses a political initiative. The increasing privatisation of the NHS by this Government is deeply resented by those who are sceptical of the motives of the private sector. Like it or not, people don't want the people caring for their granny to have one eye on the patient, and one eye on their wallet. You can join a lot of other people who want to sign up to Keep Our NHS Public

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Urban 75 site is a peculiar mixture. It contains some good photos of Brum, such as this one of what was my favourite statue before some swines vandalised it and set it on fire.

On another part of the site it allows you to nominate irritating celebrities who you would like to give a slapping to. The nominations, which carry a warning that they shouldn't be racist, sexist or hompohobic, (which seems to be broadly ignored), can be quite amusing in parts. I like the Tony Parsons nomination. Finally, go to the listings of those already successfully nominated, and give them a good slapping. Here's David Mellor to start with.
The race has started. A great idea... a blog for the Ming succession (hat tip to Paul Linford). Very disappointing though to see that our local boy John Hemming doesn't get a mention in the betting. Perhaps that's because they expect the next leadership contest after the General Election, which could pose a problem for John because they would probably want an MP as their leader.
The notion of authoritarian government and subversive security services are not new. Chris Mullins on A Very British Coup from 1982. The response of the State to the prospect of a Labour Government led by Tony Benn bordered on the hysterical when Mullin wrote his book. At the time it was fashionable on the left to wear 'Benn for Deputy' badges, Many of us were so impressed by Ray McNally's Harry Perkins character we wore 'Perkins for PM' badges.
I hope the snow has cleared up in Liverpool today. No.1 daughter wants to go down to the picket line to lend her support. Good on yer gal!

Monday, March 06, 2006

There is no doubt that the Government's increasingly authoritarian attitudes have led to much concern both inside and outside of the Labour Party. The Liberty Central blog movement is one response to that... The March for Free Expression is another. Whilst I would give a cautious welcome to Liberty Central, this other lot look more than a bit iffy. With friends like The Freedom Association you don't need enemies. I like my Stilton as much as anyone, but I don't think I would march with the likes of Roger Helmer to retain that extra 0.4% salt!

Just one point for the Liberty Central people, I would have thought a picture of a young blue-eyed, blonde woman wrapped in the Union Flag was the sort of thing one would expect on the Freedom Association (or worse, the BNP) site rather than a serious political blog. Whatever next.. a young woman in a PVC cat suit carrying a whip in one hand and a cross of St George flag in the other? (no, no, not you Mrs T.) Perhaps someone could explain the reasoning.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"Labour are no different to the Tories". that's the ever increasing refrain, admittedly largely from lib dems (who actually willingly jump into bed with the first Tory administration that offers them a whiff of power). Well, if you think smarmy Cameron with his cuddly conservativism are the real Tories, just take a read of this garbage.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A look out of the window... oh, no! Snow. Tons of the stuff. Slushy, cold, wet and miserable (sounds a bit like the opposition on the Council). Why does the election season coincide with the foulest weather of the year? Two years ago the local authority elections took place in June. Canvassing and leafleting in late April and May was so much more pleasant. Longer evenings, warmer weather, the joys of spring. Never mind all these Power Commission recommendations on democratic engagement... I want to start the Campaign for June Elections. Back to bed and listen to Test Match Special I think, listening to the lads toil in all that lovely sunshine.

Friday, March 03, 2006

For those of you searching for Mr Longrider's buttock-clinchingly embarassing Ode to Conservatism post mentioned earlier today, I'm sorry, but you've missed the treat. It would appear even Longrider finds the thing makes him blush, and using a doggy-bag and scoop, he has cleared the whole thing.
Love a bloody duck! Just take some time to read this. "If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you've got no brain" The journey of a blogger who has found his road to Damascus. Once someone who indulged in 'old ideologies'.. a man who has not only grown out of the 'old ideologies, but a man who has 'cast the scales' from his eyes' and matured politically, emotionally and intellectually. A man who, let's face it... has been saved. Yes, there may still be some of you out there with the scales still covering your eyes, who have failed to understand what Longrider's 'vision' has shown him: Capitalism Works. OK, there's starvation and aching poverty throughout the world, but a little of that BT efficiency applied to all those third world GPO's out there will soon put that right. After a stunning observation about.... "The mass graves on the battlefields of Europe remain forever a corner of Britain", Longrider saves his last cliche ridden piece of nonsense for Winston Churchill, who's journey through life brought him to the exact point in history as Longrider himself: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Chuffin' hell. Two years now I've been writing and reading blogs which often amount to complete cobblers, but this takes the biscuit. Whatever opprobrium we heap on our leaders, may they never adopt such a painfully patronising and cliche ridden load of crap upon us (not even when they feel the hand of history on their shoulder).

In a comment on his own post, Longrider asks: why am I here? What do I believe? And why? Go on, figure that out. It beats me.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ming the Charismaless wins. Oh happy day!

The War FOR terror

They may be rampaging around the Middle East, but the US administration hasn't taken its eyes off the ball in their own backyard. Just a trawl around ZNET shows the Bush administration have lost none of the enthusiasm that the late unlamented Ronnie Reagan had for death squads, dictators and military junta. It is the same in virtually every Central and South American Country... nothing is to big or too small for the boys and girls in the CIA who are looking to preserve our democratic way of life (sic). Of course, you will be lucky to find even a paragraph in our national newspapers about the war FOR terror in Haiti or the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico.

Cuba, of course, remains the country that sticks in the craw of the US more than any other. The Bush Administration call their subversion in Cuba a campaign to 'Hasten Cuba's Transition to Democracy'. Can you just imagine the US response to a multi-million dollar campaign to 'Hasten the US Transition to Communism' or to 'Hasten the US Transition to Islam' by subversive means? Laughably, from the planet's biggest polluter, one of the things they are concerned about is Addressing Environmental Degradation in Cuba.

I'd better be careful, I need to balance this posting with a savage attack on Al-Qaeda... or I might be accused of behaving in an uneven way.
Political parties, and whether people any longer give them credence, has been the subject of much discussion recently. Do parties act as an important part of the democratic process by aggreagating the vote, or do they stifle open debate, turn off the electorate and either encourage apathy or drive people to single issue groups. One of the things I have always found in the past is that they are aften lacking in any ideological base, and as a consequence they become slightly obsessive about THEIR subject. Timothy Garton Ash on why We must stand up to the creeping tyranny of the group veto.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I don't know why I haven't seen this before. It looks pretty good to me. They've even got Walter Wolfgang on their slate for the NEC. Go, Wally, Go!
As far as I am aware, there is no law against "unnecessary insensitivity" or even "offensiveness" to journalists questioning you as you try to go home.
Ken replies to his critics, who really just don't like the fact that the swine keeps winning. The next Tory candidate for Mayor of London should be interesting. Who could possibly step into the shoes so brilliantly filled by 'Nobber' Norris and Prisoner No.FF8282?

Lady Falklands has been staring vacantly on the red benches, apparently. She looks more like her waxwork in Madame Tussaud's than the waxwork itself does.

A website sponsored by Robert Kilroy-Silk? Probably not.