30 September 2006

The Rule of Law

In response to this story:

(click for large version)

29 September 2006

He Gets It

Will Howells points me towards this video of Nick Clegg at conference.

Worth a look if you have a spare 18 minutes and 9 seconds.

28 September 2006

Sticky Question

(Via Guido Fawkes)

26 September 2006

Oh, Come On!

It's not often that I take Labour's side, but this morning the majority of newspapers are running not Gordon Brown's conference speech, but the unverified, denied and unrecorded comment Cherie Blair made during it.

Cherie L. Bandit

The mass media need to stop focussing on gossip like this. They defend it as the "human interest angle", which they claim sells more papers. But they should be looking at the real issues that matter to ordinary people. Sometimes this will mean comparing personalities (Cameron vs Brown, for example, or even Brown vs Blair), but this kind of playground tittle-tattle is interesting only to those in the Westminster Village.

See also:

25 September 2006

Trial By Television

The Radio Times summary of Dispatches: The Labour Loans Scandal (C4, 8:00pm - 9:00pm tonight) reads:
"The current affairs programme investigates the secret world of Labour Party funding. Martin Bright, political editor of The New Statesman, looks at how allegations of secret loans and cash for peerages have brought brought Blair's party into disrepute, and unravels the possible legal consequences."

Martin Bright

A more accurate synopsis might read:
"Man who believes he is Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward attempts to pervert the course of justice by making a one hour documentary about a police investigation that has yet to be concluded. He intersperses this with attempts to talk to the main players, knowing full well they won't. He does so anyway as he wants them to appear guilty."

24 September 2006

Home Truths

I've had BBC News 24 on in the background today*and as you might expect there's been a lot of talk about Blair and his departure plans.

Will he lose his dignity?

Some of those writing in to their Have Your Say section are defending him, arguing that the public endorsed his leadership just last year, so let him serve his full term. A similar thing was being said by Blairites two weeks ago when he was under pressure to step down after returning from holiday.

Let's just clear this up. The public did not vote Tony Blair in. The only people that did are his Sedgefield constituents. He was appointed Prime Minister by the Queen, as he was the person able to command a majority in the House of Commons**, and his party received just 35.3% of the vote. That means that 64.7% of the voting public do not support his party, let alone his administration.

* In between the awesome Scrubs on abc1 and E4.
** Actually, the PM doesn't need to be able to command a majority - see Harold Wilson, Governance of Britain.

23 September 2006

The Rules of the Game Have Changed

Rachel from North London, one of the 7/7 survivors, sings us through the changing rules of the game.

This is her profile picture

In other news, I'm reading J.S. Mills On Liberty at the moment. Having just finished Chapter II, Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion, I can't help thinking about the stupid way I tried to block the changes to Spark, the newspaper I used to edit. I can't help thinking that my aim was right, but my method was wrong, and I wish I could go back and change that, because censorship, as now exists at the paper*, limits our intellectual freedom and holds us back as a society. If we close our ears to differing opinions, if we go so far as to silence them, then we will never advance and become better people. I just wish I could have made that point better back then.

* And admittedly, and unfortunately, did exist to a lesser extent whilst I was editor.

17 September 2006

ID Cards, Iain Dale and Barcelona

Following on from Iain Dale's Top 100 Lib Dem Blogs (PDF), he has released his Guide to Political Blogging in the UK and it's available for free here.

I've put up a presentation I had to do on ID cards for a solicitors recruitment day on my other site, I'm sure someone will find it of interest.

Anyway, I'm off to Barcelona tomorrow, so all those going to the LibDem conference, enjoy it. And to everybody else, just be glad you're not going to the LibDem conference.

16 September 2006

No. 37 and Partisanship

Partisanship is an issue in the US more than here in the UK* - we generally don't throw bile over opposition parties that we might disagree with. We treat them with a degree of respect, listening to their point of view and then offering our own.

Perhaps the only exception to this is in the chamber of the House of Commons, where they seem to do all in their power to ensure the other side can't talk.

I'm a Liberal Democrat, yet I don't just read LibDem Blogs. I read, for example A Very British Dude, partly so I can piss him off, but partly because there's some good writing in there. I don't consider the fact that we disagree on most issues a turn-off - reading a blog which accords exactly with my world view is actually fairly boring most of the time.

I admit I don't read any Labour blogs on a regular basis, but that's just because no good ones have caught my eye**. I used to subscribe to the once-great Recess Monkey, but since it started posting Photoshopped pictures from Beau Bo D'Or, I switched my subscription to that site.

Courtesy of Beau Bo D'Or

I'm discussing this because Iain Dale, noted Conservative blogger, has released his Top 100 Lib Dem Blogs*** (PDF). The fact that all of these blogs are not of the same political hue as his own had not stopped him from rating them.

Perhaps this relative harmony in the UK political sphere, relative to the US I mean, is a sign that we all recognise, both politicians and those that watch politics from the sidelines, that we are joined together by a desire to make the country and maybe even the world a better place to live. Perhaps we lose sight of this in the cynical, powderkeg 24 hour news cycle where the slightest thing can be blown up into a 'scandal'.

* See Alex Wilcock's analysis of Sen. Lieberman's primary race for a quick overview of how he used this.
** Although I'll be taking a look through Iain Dale's Top 100 Labour Blogs (PDF) to remedy this.
*** I'm, surprisingly, number 37. The newly-launched Lib Dem Voice gets the top spot and Will Howells excellent blog comes in at an 12. Iain Dale's book, Guide to Political Blogging in the UK, is out on 22nd September.

15 September 2006

Politics on Demand

To some it sounds like a death sentence, but to those few who enjoy politics, there's a podcast website devoted to politics: Politics on Demand.

At the moment I'm listening to the Tony Benn interview - a man I begrudgingly admire, despite him being of a different political leaning to my own.

Sandra Gidley and Violent Pornography: The Response

Fair play to Mrs Gidley, as yesterday I received this response my e-mail last month:

"Thank you for getting in touch. My information was that only extremely violent material would be covered so only a relatively small percentage of material would be covered. I do agree with the other points you make about learning more about underlying reasons why people commit murder."

14 September 2006

Anus Laptops

No, not a Googlewhack, but a company based in New York which
"... is highly recognized as one of the leading distributors and suppliers for laptop computers in the entire New York metropolitan area... "

As one would expect, Anus is close to Semen Electronics.

(Via Charon QC)

12 September 2006

Lib Dem Voice Article and Claire Short

I have an article about compulsory voting up on the newly launched Liberal Democrat Voice.

It's based on what I wrote on this site a few months ago, just a lot less rambling, to mark the launch of the Hansard Society's latest Democracy Series booklet on compulsory voting.

And if you really want a reason to check out the article, I'll let you into a secret - I'm wearing a Donkey Thong in that photo.

Yes, really.

In other news...

Clare Short will apparently be standing down as an MP at the next election, in order to
"be free to advocate a hung parliament so that the Lib Dems could “do a deal” to ensure PR"
For those unfamiliar with Claire Short until now, she's the ex-Labour minister that fell out with Tony Blair but isn't dead.

Update (14/09)

Clare Short has confirmed she is stepping down in a column for The Independent.

11 September 2006

The Voice of the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have a new place to talk, LibDem Voice.

The site has been created by Rob Fenwick to:
"ensure that people who don’t subscribe to CIX*, or Lib Dem News, have an idea of what's going on in the party, and can talk about it."
There's an interesting poll up at the moment showing that fellow blogger Lynne Featherstone MP might have enough support to run for the party Presidency... Or not, 'cause at the time of writing only 47 people have voted**.

There's also Liberal Review, although the front page links haven't been updated properly in a while.

* No, I don't know what this is either.
** About half the party.

08 September 2006

Working 9 to 5

Via The Times:
"Businesses were ordered yesterday to ensure that their staff took minimum rest periods, after existing guidelines were dismissed as “meaningless” by the European Court of Justice.

Judges in the ECJ

The ruling means that employers must ensure that staff take off at least 11 hours between working days, and have a minimum of 1 day off a week, as well as a 20-minute rest after every 6 hours of work."
Can't see anything wrong with that - if anything the concentration of workers must wane after 6 hours, lowering productivity. It's also good for the health (mental and physical) of workers. But not according to "business groups", who said:
"... employees would be unable to choose to work long hours to earn more money because they would be forced to take breaks against their will."
I can see the scene now - employers having to wrest reluctant employees from their desk, forcing them to take a walk, chat to loved ones or, heaven forbid, eat. I predict carnage in the office as employees take their revenge against businesses, stabbing the heartless boss who ordered him to go home, just to comply with these "Euro-crats". God, this is EU law gone made, absolutely mad*.

* Moron warning: I'm not being serious.

07 September 2006

That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government

Slightly breaking my self-imposed ban on discussing Tony Blair's current troubles*, John Hemming points me towards this article, which appeared in today's Independent. They write:
"Go back far enough, and Prime Ministers quit when Parliament sacked them. Every government from 1837 to 1874 was brought down by a parliamentary vote. That happened again in 1886 and 1895, and, much more recently, in May 1979, when Jim Callaghan lost a vote of confidence in the Commons, by 311-310 and was forced to call a general election. Before that, the last Prime Minister forced out of office in that way was Ramsay MacDonald in 1924...

James Callaghan, the last PM to
be defeated on a confidence motion

"In 1993, John Major lost control of the Conservative Party, and lost an important vote in the House of Commons. He immediately tabled a motion of confidence in his own government, defying the Commons to sack him. But sacking him would have triggered a general election in which a lot of Conservative MPs would have lost their seats. So the whole Tory party rallied to the government. Similarly, if David Cameron tabled a vote of no confidence in the Labour government, every Labour MP would rally to Tony Blair."
Not necessarily. A defeat on a motion of confidence does not automatically trigger a general election, it is just that has been the convention in recent times. A House of Commons Library Standard Note clarifies the matter:
"... a Government that has been defeated on a confidence motion can either decide to resign or the Prime Minister can request the dissolution of Parliament."
So, the Commons could express it's lack of confidence in the Government, the Government would have to resign and a new Prime Minister could be sent for by the Queen. Who this would be in the present case is up for debate - perhaps Tony Blair stays on as a caretaker Prime Minister whilst the Labour Party selects a new leader?

* The BBC News website is entering its third glorious day of front page coverage. I suspect even a nuclear war might be knocked down to a secondary headline.

06 September 2006

Taking Power Part II

It may have skipped people's notice amongst all this speculation about Tony Blair's departure date*, but the other two parties are still talking about policy substance.

The LibDems have today officially launched their Taking Power online conference, which will discuss the Power Report and how to revitalise our democracy, getting more people involved in the process.

Speaking at the conference's launch, LibDem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said:
"60% of young people stayed away from the ballot box in polling day last year. For them, the prospect of voting for their local MP, or playing a part in choosing the next government was clearly not a real priority.

This is a serious problem. It threatens the very legitimacy of our political system – because if you do not vote when you are young, you may never develop the habit of voting at all. And with successive generations turning there back on conventional politics in ever greater numbers, our participatory democracy is beginning to lack participants."
As The Times might say, Join the Debate here.

See Also:
  • The 2009 Project, which aims to get all 13 million voters under the age of 35 to pledge to take part in the next general election.
* Which has topped the BBC News website front page for the past two days at least, and is the front page story for most papers. Richard Baum is sick of it, and so am I.

David Cameron's Notebook Part III

Dave Cameron whips out his notebook once more to blame low wages on globalisation, not immigration:
"So we can't just celebrate the benefits of globalisation. We must also be honest about its costs, because the alternative is that people project their fears and anxieties on to other ethnic groups or other countries."

Mr Cameron searches
for his chin

It's almost as if he has a focus group set up telling him what they least expect a Tory leader to say.

See Also:

04 September 2006

Conservative Chums

US Republicans now prefer not to talk about staying the course, but about "Adapting to Win", parodied here:

Now take a look at the flash animation on the Conservative website, captured here:

Are the two now working more closely to put forward a joint message to separate electorates, or has one been copying the other*?

* Or is it just a massive coincidence.

03 September 2006

Political Behaviour

This week's BritBlog Roundup is out and it has a link to a thought-provoking article by Stephen Tall:
"We need to cut our politicians some slack - recognising they should be free to live their lives in common with those they represent. In return, politicians need to get real - their job is not to act as miracle-workers, but to enable us to make the best of our own lives as we wish to live them. That way, we’ll not only get the politicians we deserve; we might just end up with the society we deserve as well."

01 September 2006

Nipping It In The Bud

The Government, according to this BBC News report, plans to identify and tackle 'menace children', before they've become erm... menace children. Presumably through a cross between psychic social workers and police officers "with a bad feeling about that one". This from Tony Blair:
"If we are not prepared to predict and intervene far more early then there are children who are growing up - in families which we know are dysfunctional - and the kids a few years down the line are going to be a menace to society and actually a threat to themselves."


He predicts:
... there was a "pretty good chance" children of teenage mothers who were not in stable relationships would grow up in a "difficult set of circumstances" and develop behavioural problems.
At first glance, you can't fault his logic. After all those born to teenage mums on low-incomes in inner city areas who stay with the father for a short period of time are bound to be a menace to society.
Except they're not. And the reason I know this is because I'm one of them. I'm in the second year of a law degree at a respectable university - although maybe we've misunderstood Mr Blair, after all, lawyers are a menace to society and he should know, he's one of them too.

See Also:

David Cameron's Notebook Part II

David Cameron consults his notebook once more:
At a news conference in Devon with Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper, Mr Cameron said climate change was the biggest challenge facing the world and politicians had to work together. Binding targets on cutting carbon emissions every year from now until 2050 would take that issue out of politics he argued, "Then you can really ask politicians what are you going to do to achieve those targets".