31 July 2011

Guido Fawkes - hypocrite or stupid?

The one thing that kept many liberals reading the increasingly strident and reactionary Guido Fawkes blog was that he claimed to be some sort of libertarian and stood up against vested interests and corruption.

However, his latest campaign (if it really warrants the name) is to reintroduce hanging and he hopes to force the government to have a debate by getting 100,000 names on his petition.

Aside from the cant and hubris in his belief that his website is some sort of moral crusade - his campaign does two things:

Firstly, it confirms Paul Staines and his side kicks are simply just right wing reactionaries whose claims of political neutrality are now simply ludicrous.

Secondly, it exposes his huge hypocrisy. For a site that claims to be libertarian, distrustful of government (of all types) and in favour of a smaller state - campaigning to increase the state's power over the ultimate - life and death - and at the same ignore its ability to get things wrong shows a stunning level of hypocrisy/stupidity (delete as appropriate).

So when Staines fails either to get the signatures needed, or the debate, or loses the debate (which he will if it gets that far) - it will send out a clear message that self important right wing loons - of both the tea party in the US and of the Staines variety in the UK are part of the problem - not the solution.

Oh and if you want evidence of his self importance - enjoy this:

30 July 2011

Cameron proud of No to AV campaign

David Cameron has sent the following email to Tory supporters - so my spies tell me...

Not only is he proud of the No campaign he is clearly incredibly defensive about the NOTW hacking scandal. One might think he's a little under pressure for his employment of Andy Coulson and his vast number of smooches with Murdoch. He's also claiming credit for Lib Dem policy on Equitable Life.

Dear X,

As the summer break approaches, I am writing to thank you for all your support over the past few months, particularly in the run-up to the AV referendum. This victory was a crucial moment for our Party and our country - and it was only possible with the tireless campaigning of Conservative supporters across the country. We can be truly proud of the campaign we fought and the result we achieved. Our voting system is safe, and electoral reform is off the agenda for a long time to come.

As recent weeks have shown, being in government produces all sorts of challenges that need a clear response. The hacking scandal has been shocking in terms of the dreadful things that have happened, and profound in terms of its long-term impact. I hope you agree that with a Judge-led inquiry now being established; a proper police investigation under way; the BSkyB merger now off the agenda; and maximum transparency being delivered, we have dealt decisively with this issue.

Overall, I believe we can be proud of the progress we're making in government. In all the years in Opposition, I had a clear idea in my head of the kind of government I wanted to lead: one that thought about the long term instead of tomorrow's headlines; one that did the right thing by decent, working people; and one that restored Britain's standing in the world. In our actions of the past few months, we're making progress on all three fronts.

First, we're doing what's right for our country in the long term, however difficult that may be today. One of the big tests in recent months has been our plans to modernise the NHS. The decision to pause those reforms was the right one. It gave us the time and space to get the involvement and support of doctors and nurses, and we came back to the table with a package that is changed for the better, but not changed in its fundamental drive to make the health service more dynamic, efficient and effective.

We've applied the same long-term approach to pension reform. We all know that the pensions system as it stands is unsustainable, and that to duck this challenge would have been a dereliction of our long-term duty to this country. The decisions we have made on raising the pension age are tough, but right. However choppy the political waters may be as we pursue these plans, it is vital we stick to the course.

Second, we're doing the right thing by decent, hard-working people. Nothing so undermined the value of responsibility in this country than the woeful welfare system allowed to spiral out of control by the last government. That's why in June we launched The Work Programme, the largest-ever welfare-to-work scheme of its kind. We're bringing in a whole range of new providers and paying them on the results they achieve - getting people into work and keeping them in work.

We're also doing the right thing by the Equitable Life policyholders who were so cruelly let down. In Opposition we promised to help those people, and it's a promise we have kept. Last month the first cheques were sent out - the start of a three-year programme of payments totalling £1.5 billion.

And third, this is a government that is restoring Britain's standing in the world. In little over a year, through one Spending Review and two Budgets, we have restored this country's reputation for economic competence. At a time when the shadow of sovereign debt problems is falling across Europe, we can be more confident than ever in the action we are taking. Market interest rates in the UK - vital to encouraging the investment we need - are falling; in so many other countries they are rising.

Holding a Strategic Defence and Security Review when our inheritance was a MoD budget that was out of kilter by £38 billion was always going to be difficult, but we now have a long-term plan to deliver the right defence forces for Britain's future. Our plan to increase the trained strength of our Territorial Army from 14,000 to around 40,000 in the next few years is something that all Conservatives can be proud of.

And just as we have shown responsibility in our domestic affairs, so we are playing our part in global affairs. Along with our allies, we continue to enforce the UN resolution in Libya, protecting the civilians there from Qadhafi's murderous regime and pressuring him to go. In Afghanistan, we continue our efforts to pursue a lasting political settlement. The transition of security responsibility to Afghan control for selected districts throughout the country is just about to start and, in line with progress in this area, we have made some plans for modest troop reductions by the end of 2012, with the ultimate aim to have no UK troops in combat roles by 2015.

We have also made good progress in meeting our promises to limit immigration and stop powers being passed from Britain to Brussels without a referendum, and we have severely limited Britain's exposure to future EU bailouts.

So while the day-to-day of politics can sometimes be tough, I hope you can be proud that you have a government that does the right thing for the long term, that is on the side of responsible people, and that is restoring Britain's standing in the world.

I wish you and your families a relaxing summer.

With best wishes,

David Cameron

Friday favourite 17

I've just finished watching 'My favourite joke' on BBC1. There appears to be more episodes to follow - but I doubt they will feature the late great Bill Hicks.

So in memory of him (and Amy Winehouse - who I think he would have appreciated) - here is is talking about manufactured pop musicians. Warning - don't watch if you are easily offended.

29 July 2011

How Zac Goldsmith bought his seat in parliament

The Electoral Commission has published the accounts for the main political parties and so far the focus has been on the failure of the BNP to submit its accounts and possible legal action as a result.

However the Electoral Commission also includes accounts of the various constituency parties. And the entry for Richmond Park Conservatives makes fascinating reading.

In it we find the party has a property portfolio - through the shadowy Thameside Property Trust - worth more than £2 million. This investment income was worth more than £60,000 in 2010 to Zac's campaign.

Line 11 of the accounts includes an entry for 'Notional income' which shows a grand total of £108,602 for the period 09/10. You have to read the notes on the penultimate page of the accounts to find out that this is the 'private expenditure on campaigning' by Zac Goldsmith.

The accounts claim that a Mrs Sarah Tippett is the registered treasurer (she is also the Chair). According to Richmond Park Conservative's website she works for the Rupert Murdoch owned Fox Sport.

26 July 2011

Cheap Paxman English Defence League jibe

Monday's Newsnight contained an interview between Paxo and Stephen Lennon - head of the ultra nationalist English Defence League.

The premise was some extremely dodgy research that led the BBC to claim that Norway mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik had links to the EDL because he posted on various websites (including Facebook) in praise of them.

Paxo's attempted hatchet job on Lennon backfired completely (and it started pretty poorly due to the paucity of the evidence presented) when he ended by claiming that Lennon and the EDL were threatening a similar slaughter in the UK because of Lennon's closing remark that 'I think we're five years away from that happening here, or 10 years, of English lads doing that because of the desperation they're in'.

It's not available on i-player yet - but catch it when you can (and I'll try and link it when it is available). You can catch it here.

The leftish bias of the BBC does itself no favours when it behaves like this. I don't have any time for the policies of EDL - but they are representative of a section of white, working class opinion that should not be ignored. It particularly should not be ridiculed and defamed by multi-millionaire public sector workers like Paxman.

The BBC needs to put its student union trotskyism to one side and deal with issues of race, religion and the homegrown dispossed in a more grown up and sensitive way.

24 July 2011

So farewell then Amy Winehouse

It's sad, but not hugely surprising that Amy Winehouse has died at just 27. She was a talented musician, a flawed person and definitely no angel. And her music reflected this - supported by some great musicianship from her band.

Here they are at their best:

22 July 2011

Friday favourite 16

It's July, it's raining, so it's time to stand in a field listening to your favourite bands. So here is the Manic Street Preachers at last weekend's T in the Park.

Time for Lembit to stand down

Ballot papers are being received in the Lib Dem selection for its London Mayoral candidate. The first hustings took place on Wednesday and Lib Dem Voice carries a report here.

In addition to some bizarrely defensive comments from his campaign manager Ed Joyce on Lib Dem Voice, Lembit posted some frankly strange comments on Facebook, implying there is some sort of conspiracy against him.

It's clear Lembit has lost touch with any sense of reality. As Peter Black makes clear Lembit is blaming anyone but himself for the loss of Montgomeryshire last year.

Lembit has lost it. His flagship policy for London Mayor - a referendum on a 24 hour tube is both facile and impossible. He is now an embarrassment to the party and if London Region had had the courage they should have excluded him from the shortlist, rather than let him embarrass himself and the party by carrying on with his ridiculous campaign.

But they allowed him to stand and for the good of his mental health - if nothing else - Lembit should do the decent thing and withdraw from the race.

20 July 2011

Miliband flunks hacking statement

Caught most of the proceedings on today's statement by Cameron on phone hacking.

It was a robust performance from Cameron. And despite having some difficult issues to deal with I thought he struck the right balance between partisanship and statesmanship.

However, Ed Miliband was dreadful. Trying to make partisan points when you and your party are up to your necks in the scandal isn't sensible. And he was put down brilliantly with Cameron's line about 'only one party leader still employing ex-News International staff'

One wonders what ex-News International hack Tom Baldwin (and now Mili minor's media adviser) makes of it?

Overblown hyperbole of the day...

...and the award goes to Dr Jacky Davis of Keep Our NHS Public, who says of the proposals to extend patient choice to a number of non acute services such as counselling:

'This is the final step in outsourcing NHS care to the private sector'

Full report here.

18 July 2011

What's your favourite Murdoch smear about Clegg and the Lib Dems?

Rupert Murdoch and News Corp have never been friends of the the Liberal Democrats or their leaders. In fact it has made a point of ignoring the party, making an exception only to smear Nick Clegg and his predecessors.

At the same time he and his companies went out of their way to build relationships with Labour and Tory politicians in turn as the fortunes of the two parties varied over time.

Now in the rush by these parties to distance themselves from the sinking ship that is News Corp one might imagine that mutual distrust between the Murdoch empire and politicians of all parties has always been the order of the day.

So by way of proving it has been the Lib Dems who have taken the principled stance against Murdoch over the years - and paid the price in terms of how they have been covered - I'm holding a competition.

I'd like to hear people's favourite smear of the Lib Dems over the years. Here's mine: Racehorses more popular than Clegg.

But I'm sure others can do much better.

Are further revelations about Met corruption on the way?

Yesterday's big news that Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Met police, has resigned has been reported as putting more pressure on PM Cameron. The reason - highlighted by Labour's Yvette Cooper - is the contrast between the Commissioner's 'honourable' action of resigning over his employment of the Deputy Editor of the News of the World compared with the 'dishonourable' action of PM Cameron who remains in post even though he appointed its Editor.

However, senior policemen are almost as difficult to winkle out of office as dodgy politicians - witness how long Stephenson's predecessor held on despite losing the confidence of the Mayor.

What is perhaps being forgotten is that there are two current inquiries into phone hacking - Operation Weeting which is re-investigating the shambolic previous investigation on Labour's watch - and Operation Elvedon which is looking at what is euphemistically called 'inappropriate payments to the police' ie bribery.

My reading is that Stephenson resigned because he knew that the case against the Met will include widespread evidence of 'inappropriate payments' as well as the employment of dodgy ex-hacks.

The case against Cameron is just about the employment of dodgy ex-hacks.

17 July 2011

China's over-reaction to Obama/Dalai Lama meeting

Well done to President Obama from this blog (and I know he's a big fan;-))for continuing to meet the Dalai Lama - despite the bluster from Beijing.

The open and western facade of the Chinese communist regime slipped revealing their true authoritarian nature in their comment that 'We demand the US side to seriously consider China's stance, immediately adopt measures to wipe out the baneful impact, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces'.

The Beeb carries the full report here.

As the US State Department reiterates in their 2010 human rights report the USA recognises that Tibet is part of the Peoples' Republic of China. But it goes on to list a series of human rights abuses that leads it to say there is 'severe repression' in Tibet.

The repression includes:

- The execution of possibly 200+ protestors in 2008.
- The disappearance of an unknown number of people - including monks and nuns.
- Routine use of torture.
- More than 5,500 arrested and detained arbitrarily.
- 831 known political prisoners of whom just 360 were known to have been convicted by courts - with the actual number of Tibetan political prisoners believed to be much higher.
- 59 people convicted in 2009 for "creating and spreading rumors".
- Continued government jamming of foreign radio broadcasts.
- Monitoring of the internet and banning of certain websites.
- Forced resettlement of nomads and farmers.
- Raiding more than 4,000 homes for pictures of the Dalai Lama

These figures may sound relatively small for a country the size of China - but there are just 2.7 million Tibetans living in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

President Obama is absolutely right to continue to meet with the Dalai Lama (and anyone else he sees fit). It's about two things that the Chinese communists don't understand - democracy and freedom of association. And although China carries huge economic might - it will fail to realise its full potential while the regime continues to opress its people - not just in Tibet but across the whole country.

16 July 2011

Winchester's Friday favourite 15 (and an apology)

Had some business in Winchester today - the first time I had been there since the by-election in November 1997.

I came across this not inappropriately posh busking puppeteer on the High Street:

But as it's Friday it's time for my Friday favourite.

So this week's favourite is in honour of the Winchester by election and my last visit.

The by-election was won by Mark Oaten by nearly 22,000 votes on 20 November 1997. It was sadly the last election outing of Lord Sutch before he committed suicide and the election where Labour scored less than 2% of the vote - their worst ever score and lower than the Lib Dem share in the recent Inverclyde by-election.

So for your delectation here is the UK number one for that week in late November 1997.

And for it I can only apologise...

15 July 2011

Austen more popular than offside

Sotheby's made a small fortune yesterday selling off two old documents - one Sheffield FC's original rule book - the other an unfinished Jane Austen novel.

As Channel 4 news pointed out the Austen proved more popular - at least in terms of the price people were prepared to pay.

Given the wealth showered on semi literate professional footballers - who are happy to name their offspring after numbers and Disney characters (sometimes at the same time) - I find it a shame that the world's oldest football club is forced to sell off historically significant documents to keep the club running when the game at the top tier has never been richer.

The £881,000 paid for the rule book is a few week's pay for the Premiership's top stars - who owe everything to the men of Sheffield (and obviously this week's other big news - Rupert Murdoch's millions).

13 July 2011

Phone hacking - the view from across the pond

Here's Jon Stewart's take - unfortunately I can't find any video footage of it. The audience reaction is fascinating and shows perhaps how cynical people in the UK are in comparison:

11 July 2011

Learning the right lesson from the NOTW hacking scandal

Given the momentous events of last week I guess I picked the wrong week to go on holiday ...

But as the dust settles on the scandal (and on the News of the World itself), the talk is now of improving press regulation. Nick Clegg has said the Press Complaints Commission needs to be replaced with something with more power.

But I remain to be convinced that this is a problem of regulation (or lack of it).

Just like the banks, the British media is run by just a handful of large multi-media organisations. This oligopoly sets the rules by which it is run - influences decision makers to keep legislation light touch and generally behaves as masters of the universe. The fall of the News of the World is the media equivalent of the fall of HBOS where hubris and arrogance allowed an unacceptable culture of risk taking and moral vacuity to develop. Anything was OK provided it made a fast buck/titilating headline. The fact that it was NOTW/Northern Rock/HBOS that got caught doesn't fail to hide the endemic rot that exists in their respective sectors.

And that rot is the concentration of ownership in far too few hands. Like the banks the media moguls needs their wings clipped and their vast mutli companied organisations split up. Far from new complaints regulation, what the media needs is a competition commission with teeth - one that forces them to be split up and allows for a broader range of ownership.

Lib Dem MPs need to take the lead on this - firstly by voting to stop the full merger of News Corp and BSkyB and secondly by pursuing proper media ownership laws in this country.

Sadly, if the lack of progress on splitting up the banks is anything to go by, I fear that a pale compromise will be foisted on us and it will be basically 'business as usual' for the media - just as it is for the banks.

8 July 2011

Friday favourite 14

Despite their Hebridean name (and sound) they're actually from Oxford...

4 July 2011

2 July 2011

A successful UK export to the US

This wonderful Beeb report is the most read story on their website on Friday 1 July.

Who would have thought the much maligned British roundabout becoming the way forward for international transport planning and a successful British export?

1 July 2011

Edinburgh backs trams

Edinburgh City council last night backed the partial completion of the city's tram project.

This is good news and good leadership by the city's Lib Dem led administration.

The tram project has rightly been held up to ridicule for interminable delays, overspends and continued resignations of project leaders. But much of the project's problems have stemmed from the way the project was devised by the previous Labour administration. The sad thing for the current administration is that the trams won't be running before the city goes to the polls, while voters will have had to put up with the disruption without seeing any benefit.

But the city will be a better place for the reintroduction of the trams and once the dust has settled the role of the city's Lib Dems and leader Cllr Jenny Dawe in rescuing the project will hopefully be realised. Whether it comes before May 2013 remains to be seen.

Friday favourite 13

Beth Ditto and the Gossip show how live music should be done: