31 December 2010

Zac Goldsmith wants you to vote for someone else

Among the least reported part of the the supine (or was it legally bullied?) Electoral Commission climb down on the Zac Goldsmith campaign's busting of the election expenses rules was this gem...

we note that the posters included Mr Goldsmith's image and the slogan "Vote for Change‟, either of which may or may not have been appropriate at a future election depending on a number of variables such as whether Mr Goldsmith intended to stand for re-election and whether the Conservative party was successful in being elected.

Well sadly he was successful in being elected. But he is now tied down to using these posters in 2015 - with his image featuring very strongly alongside the message 'vote for change'. And given his agent paid £2,792.97 for them, but allocated just £523.87 to Goldsmith Junior's 2010 campaign it would be dishonest for him to do anything else.

Electoral commission whitewash

16 December 2010

What Ed Miliband should put on his blank piece of paper...

Ed Miliband has junked every clause of the manifesto he wrote just six months ago and has said he wants to reach out to Liberal Democrats in developing a new centre left 'progressive' platform. Well in the unlikely event he asks me for his advice here's what I think he should write:

Socialism is dead - thank god - and in its lifetime proved to be one of the most evil ideologies of human history.

Working people are far better represented by independent trade unions - free of one particular political point of view.

The state is not always benign and when it becomes too bloated and overweaning it is just as bad as unfettered capitalism.

People should be allowed to live their lives as they see fit - provided they don't interfere with the liberties of others.

I realise now the Labour party has been a 100 year mistake and cannot ever be redeemed.

I resign.

14 December 2010

Apt name of the day...

From BBC Scottish news:
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman, Jackson Carlaw, said everyone would welcome the announcement "however long overdue" it was.

Hurrah victory is assured - La Toynbee backs Ed Miliband

Slightly late but good news for the Lib Dems as the doyen of nanny state nicompoopery, Polly Toynbee, predicts a Labour victory in yesterday's Guardian:

Deluded old fart spouts nonsense

9 December 2010

The tuition fee fall out...

I'll leave it to others to mull over the riots, the result and the Royals, but what has been clear from the tuition fee debate over the last few months is the big Lib Dem fall out has to end.

I understand both sides of the debate and can see completely why those Lib Dems who chose to vote no did so. I also complete understand the argument put forward by Cable and Clegg that their revision of the Browne proposals (Browne+) are demonstrably better than the original and the current regime. But what I cannot understand is why those Lib Dem opponents of the proposals chose to argue their case in a way that gave cover for the NUS and Labour.

This argument should never have been about trust - even though it is easy to make a case for that. The Lib Dems have been entirely consistent about the benefits of further and higher education and making access as easy as possible - particularly for bright kids from poorer backgrounds. They were consistent in 1998 when they opposed Labour's introduction of fees in the first place and in 2004 when they opposed Labour's introduction of top up fees as they were when they realised earlier this year the economic situation meant that abolition would have to be delayed. And that clear principle of making it easy for bright kids from poorer backgrounds to get a good education shines through Vince Cable's changes to the original Browne scheme.

But there is a big difference between the detailed expression of policy and the principles and values that lie behind it. Just as some Lib Dems were wedded to the 1997 tactical position of raising taxes to pay for better public services way beyond its economic usefulness and making it some sort of totem of Social Liberalism, there seems to be vocal minority who have been wedded to no tuition fees as a totem of principle rather than a policy for a particular time.

Keynes said when the facts change I change my mind. The detail of policy is simply an expression of how we best put our principles and values into action. Our principle is not to oppose tuition fees per se, but to widen access to further and higher education because it benefits everyone and is the biggest driver to ending poverty. The tuition fees pledge was an expression of that goal. That has not changed and we can point to how our principles have been applied consistently to the new reality.

Unfortunately the opponents of Browne+ within the party have failed to make that distinction and done the Labour party's dirty work by focussing on the promise not the rationale for making it.

But I'm confident both sides now understand the necessity of coming together and starting to argue a case, in a language that all can understand. In the end it's our values that matter - not the policies. And it's time to start framing the debate in those terms - not Labour's (whose record on student finance is a mixture of hypocrisy, opportunism and craven fawning to the commercial interests of the biggest and richest universities in the land).

7 December 2010

David Davis and his non-role in the tuition fees non-rebellion...

Today's not entirely unexpected news that Lib Dem ministers will all vote in favour of the Browne+ proposals (as they now should be called) means that normal politics is resumed.

The government will win the vote comfortably, a few backbench rebels on all sides will rebel and the debate will move on.

No doubt some mad Tories (and Lib Dems) will blame Tory unguided weapon, David Davis, and his one man campaign to stand up for traditional British values of owning a white van, not paying VAT when doing painting and decorating work and being sniffy about foreigners for concentrating Lib Dem minds. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The Lib Dems now have for many years been far too grown up for their own good. Senior Lib Dems have run major cities and boroughs with multi billion budgets and have understood what makes for successful governance. The one wing of the party that hasn't fully understood this is the parliamentary party - despite their obvious talents and wide experience.

I am now convinced that this sorry saga has taught them a valuable lesson - it's even more important in a hung government to hang together than in opposition, every nuance of disagreement is conflated out of all proportion and realistic and rational liberal debates are seen as earth shattering cleavages that will tear the party assunder.

But the party has been written off wrongly too many times for that to be true. The Lib Dems are an internally democratic and liberal party and how it comes to collective decisions (or not) is always more complex and robust than it is ever given credit for.

The lazy journalistic narrative has been clear - Blair was suppose to destroy the party but it grew stronger, the election of Michael Howard as a grown up Tory leader was supposed to destroy the party, but it grew stronger, the election of David Cameron was bound to see the end of the party, as did the resignation of Kennedy, the knifing of Campbell and the (non) election of Brown (on the ludicrous basis he wasn't Blair) - none of which ever came true (or was likely to).

A significant Lib Dem vote in favour of Browne+ would now signal the parliamentary party has learnt how to deal with honest disagreement in government and show once again the party cannot be written off as a permanent and significant player in UK politics.

John Reid - Scotland's shame

Scotland's shame is generally taken to mean the fans of Glasgow Rangers - particularly by their rivals Celtc (and no that's not a typo). However, Celtc Chairman, John Reid, former Labour Defence and Home Secretary, pro-Iraq War, pro-ID cards, anti-fairer votes and all round attack dog (and ex-Communist), is fast taking over this mantle on his own with his outrageous bullying of Scottish referees and his perpetuation of the most knuckle dragging myths that circulate among those sad enough to call themselves 'Celtc supporters'.

Anyway his antics prompted this rather splendid rant from a disgruntled Dundee Utd fan who according to the Tartan Army message board sent him the following letter:

Dear John

First of all as this letter may contain mild criticism of Celtic FC, please do not assume that I have a hidden agenda (I am aware that this is your normal accusation levelled at anyone who dares question you)- I am a Dundee United fan who has equal contempt and disdain for both sides of the old firm. For too many years I have had to listen and watch while the filth and vermin which attaches itself to both Glasgow clubs brought their vitriolic sectarian bile and hatred with them while polluting the atmosphere of Tannadice Park and environs- with no apology issued from either club. May I congratulate you on achieving the removal of messrs Dallas and McDonald from their posts at the SFA - after all, Celtic have never received an apology for Hugh daring to bleed on your hallowed pitch and I remember McDonald once awarded a throw in to the opposition.

Whilst you are celebrating your success, may I cause a slight rain cloud to pass over the celestial vault of your euphoric schadenfreude by raising a point or two? Fergus McCann made a serious attempt to drag your club kicking and screaming into the 20th century despite the opposition and hatred of a large number of the Celtic 'faithful'. Under his stewardship and the following board the club was moved forward to such an extent that the whole of world football showered praise on Celtic for the exemplary and impeccable behaviour of their fans at the Uefa Cup final in Seville. It was a proud moment and showed promise of great things to come.

Move forward to 2010 and under your regime the knuckle dragging moronic bigots are now steering the club back to the bad old days. We had the dreadful example of the green brigade from section 111 befouling the image of the club with political banners - I know that they saved up their giros, shoplifting, protection racket, housebreaking and drug dealing money to pay for the printing, but surely at least one of them could have learned how to spell correctly? The club claim they couldn't identify those responsible despite cctv and HD television coverage. That is a deliberate and blatant LIE. You know the seat numbers, the section of the ground they slither into, and you have film and pictures. Emboldened not only by the boards protection and clear support they even attacked a home steward during the match against Dundee United recently - United fans were held back for twenty minutes after the game due to the threatening behaviour of your fans. I notice during your recent AGM that you consciously and deliberately stoked the flames of sectarianism, intolerance and paranoia by insisting that Celtic have always been the victims of a conspiracy led by the SFA and referees based on religion (anti catholic and thereby anti Celtic minded) and that these days must come to an end. Come to end? They never existed - the unadulterated drivel spouted by you was a smokescreen to cover up the fact that your football team isn't really very good just now. Would we have heard such demagogic rhetoric if you were top of the SPL and doing well in the Champions league? "Oh no, we are doing badly - quick, pander to the lowest common denominator among the pond life which supports us and blame institutional bias against all catholics in this country for our position". Perhaps your team is not very good because you shaved an orang utang and gave it the managers job? I can only assume it got the job because it was "celtic minded" - whatever kind of mind is controlling Lennon's behaviour it seems, just like the element in your support you are pandering to, not to have evolved beyond the most primitive early form of hominid. Throwing tantrums and jumping around in an uncontrollable rage at every game whilst blaming all and sundry for ones own flaws is not really the behaviour expected of a civilized human being, far less one who is in a position of high responsibility. Oh sorry, it isn't brutish behaviour - it is defined in a "celtic minded" way as simply being "passionate." Did Celtic fail to beat ICT this week because the officials from Luxembourg were also part of an anti catholic conspiracy? Can we expect that you will prove that the referees in charge when your club was knocked out of two European competitions this season (against the mighty Braga and Utrecht, those giants of continental football) were part of the same SFA conspiracy? Is the fact that your club doesn't ever win champions league away games caused by the same SFA conspiracy? Now you want referees to declare which team they supported as a child - did you trumpet your own allegiance when you took the post of Northern Ireland secretary? Your stance is not even politics of the playground - it is politics of the gutter

We have just experienced the first ever strike by Scottish referees - widely acknowledged to have been precipitated by the recent statements from celtic park. The witch hunt carried out against Dougie McDonald was apparently because he lied. Correct me if I am wrong, but weren't you part of a government who took our country into an illegal war against Iraq on the grounds that they had weapons of mass destruction, despite the advice of Hans Blick and the UN expert inspectors? That war was justified by a blatant LIE. I think that I have established that you have no problem with a lie as long as it is "celtic minded". What is worse - a lie by McDonald which didn't affect the result of a game or a lie which resulted in the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of mainly innocent Iraqis? Are their deaths justified in your own thinking because they deliberately chose to be born into a culture which was muslim and thereby not "celtic minded"? You question the integrity of the SFA and referees, yet as a former Secretary of Defence, you used that position to obtain a post as an advisor to a security firm currently working in Afghanistan for £50,000 a year. That type of self promotion was regarded as sleaze by new labour when seeking office and used to attack former cabinet members who had taken advantage of their political influence. Do you have any concept of what integrity actually means? All the lower league clubs have been put in an invidious financial position by the strike this weekend through no fault of their own - how much more can you do to alienate your club from simple football supporters? Apart from being a catalyst in this strike you have implied that the whole of Scottish Football is involved in a conspiracy against "celtic minded" people - that is a wicked slur! Keep your accusations levelled at the other Glasgow club and the west coast. The rest of Scotland is happy to live in the 21st century.

To sum up some people might be led to think that you are a moral, social, religious, philosophical and political dinosaur. For my part I congratulate you on achieving high political and football positions along with self enrichment and aggrandisement - you have done well for an atavistic, pusillanimous, parochial, bradyphrenic, hypocritical, mendacious lugubrious bigot of the worst kind. Well done John, Johnny bhoy, St John, newly self appointed spokesman of Scotland's 850,000 catholics - don't know how you sleep at night but I assume the medication helps.

To conclude Jonnysaurus, and to hold a moral mirror up for you - let's look at institutionalised bigotry. Jock Stein, by far the greatest character in celtic's and Scottish football history was denied a place on the board when he retired simply because he was not born "celtic minded". Apparently 7 of the European Cup winning team were not born "celtic minded" - bhoy, did they collude in a hidden "non celtic minded" agenda to bring celtic the greatest moment in their history? Work this one out shouldn't in people glass houses stones throw. Be careful of the splinters! This letter is not anti celtic or anti catholic - it is querying your right to stand in moral judgement on any institution whatsoever. Do a favour to those august institutions Celtic Football Club and the Roman Catholic Church and just stop talking in public. It is better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove the fact.

I will be more than happy to post any reply of his in full...

4 December 2010

Cover versions

On a stag do a few years ago we got into a drunken discussion about whether it was possible for a cover to be better than the original. I argued that yes it was, but was slapped down by most of the others on the do because they argued the originals were always the best because of the creative input of the songwriters and arrangers. Unfortunately no-one was able to come up with the three examples needed on the night to prove the point.

But I think these three prove them wrong:

Kirsty MacColl - Days

Melanie - Ruby Tuesday

Some random X Factor winner

I think it is appropriate that the late, great Kirsty McColl is there, given she was a victim of the piss-poor cover syndrome involving the piss-poor Tracey Ullman and the even more piss-poor Neil Kinnock.

3 December 2010

In praise of the Daily Mail...

...on the odious FIFA decision making process. Martin Samuel, their sports correspondent, hits the nail firmly on the head:


Question Time exposes lunacy of tuition fee abstension

It's not often that Question Time highlights anything salient in the political sphere, but tonight's grilling of Danny Alexander showed how ludicrous it would be for Lib Dem ministers to abstain for the sake of party unity.  Particularly as they support the revised policy.

Alexander even made the reasonable point that he wanted to vote in favour of the revised Browne proposals, but was trying to persuade backbench colleagues to do the same.

I actually now think those Lib Dem MPs who now abstain or vote against will be in a worse position than those who vote in favour.  They won't get any benefit because anyone who thinks the Lib Dems have betrayed students won't notice their individual position and they won't be able to honestly argue in favour of any of the Cable inspired improvements to get any credit for the new system.

The Lib Dem parliamentary party should bite the bullet and all vote in favour of Vince Cable's proposals.

1 December 2010

Lembit's I'm a celebrity reality check

Lembit Opik wants to be the Lib Dem candidate for London Mayor (among other things no doubt).  His campaign technique so far has been to appear on any available tv show and be pictured in any available tabloid newspaper with whichever young lady is foolish enough to let him smooch her.  Needless to say the cause of Liberal Democracy doesn't appear to have been advanced by any of these antics.

Lembit justified his 'I'm a celebrity...' appearance writing the following on Lib Dem Voice:
"But the best campaigning narrative in the world is pointless unless people are actually interested in it, and have some association with the people putting it forward. Being worthy is not empowering to the public if you’re anonymous and can’t generate the coverage to get the message across.

For this reason, I’ve decided to appear on the reality television show “I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here!” It’s a great opportunity to get direct to the viewing public...My appearance on the programme will generate varied views – and that’s the point: it WILL generate views, which is crucial to prevent us from becoming invisible in the Mayoral campaign."
First week, Lembit won immunity from eviction so couldn't be voted out.  But as soon as he was eligible for eviction the public uncermoniously dumped him from the show.  His performance certainly generated views - but not the ones he was probably expecting (although exactly the ones everyone else was).  It's now surely time for him to recognise what everyone else does - as a politician he's a busted flush and it's invisibility that the public wants from him.  The people are not interested in him or his narrative.

Let it snow

As the first snow hits London the po-faced chaos alerts begin.  But the good old Beeb continues to undermine the gloom mongers by providing regular viewers' photos of how snow is really being treated.  This morning's installment here...