Thursday, 18 December 2008

Big dissapointment of 2008 (part 1)

Prawn Cocktail flavoured Pringles!

When I first heard about their existence , my mouth salivated at the very thought of it.
A perfect blend of the heavenly Prawn Cocktail flavour and the devilishly moorish Pringle.

However when I got to taste them, it was just meh.

Not strong enough to leave an impression. Us Brits were bought up on stronger Leicester (and Market Harborough) based crisps...

Insulation - dull! Rail - cool!

I was about to break my blogging drought with a piece about how our Roll back Beeching could really catch people's imagination and should be the centre of any February 2009 General Election campaign but I see that Nick Clegg has just launched the Green Road out of the Recession. The main points in the order used are:

  • A five-year programme to insulate every school and hospital, with 20% completed in the first year
  • Funding insulation and energy efficiency for a million homes, with a £1,000 subsidy for a million more
  • Building 40,000 extra zero-carbon social houses
  • Buying 700 new train carriages
  • Reopening old railway lines and stations, opening new ones, electrifying the Great Western and Midland mainlines and beginning the Liverpool light rail network
  • Installing energy and money saving smart meters in every home within five years

These are all good solid actions but are, I would argue, in the wrong order. Whilst insulation and energy efficiency are all well and good, they are not exactly headline items that will set the public alight with debate.

I would say they fit too easily into the dull and worthy mould of people's expectations of the LibDems and is the kind of thing people expect us to say that allows them to safely switch off and ignore without fear of missing anything.

Our proposals on new rail however (the fog of the MSM notwithstanding) could get people talking as it's something they can see would have a positive effect on their everyday lifes. Regardless of any money- or planet-saving benefits of better insulation, new and better rail would actually make peoples' lifes better and improve their wellbeing and more importantly people will see that.

Also, I think the issue of rail is one those issues that feeds into the public's disaffection with politicians in that the public can see something so glaringly obvious that needs sorting with such an obvious upside to a solution which they also think will get overwhelming public support, they can't understand why the politicians never do anything about it (or maybe it's just me who gets annoyed). Labour have been in for 11 years and have not even tried to fix something that's obviously rubbish and blights so many people's daily lifes.

I think there is pent up frustration here that we could tap in to.

I think, the proposals on zero-carbon social houses (whilst less sexy) do fall somewhat into this camp as tightening enery efficiency rules on new builds (we should do this for all new builds) is such a no-brainer, I think some people (well me) don't understand why it hasn't been done. I believe something similar was in the Labour 1997 manifesto but was dropped in short order by Blair when they got in.

In summary, I think the rail proposals should be the headline and the other more boring bits should be there in support to show we have a full programme if asked.

Why not try and make this a central issue? The establishment parties can't (and won't) compete on this issue (and if they do, even better for the country) and I'm sure we'd have overwhelming public support on this.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Final word on Oliver Postgate

Just a couple of Postgate-related things.

He wrote about why Childrens' TV matters a few years ago and I completely agree with what he said. Unimaginative kids' TV is just another nail in the coffin of a thoughtful nation (along with over-testing at schools). I find what the BBC woman said both depressing and depressingly unsurprising.

The second thing is something I knew I saw ages ago and it made me laugh. I'm sure I saw it more slickly done as a poster image with a white background ont' net at the time but all I can find now with my googling skillz was this. It challenges the NASA version of the moon landings...

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

RIP My childhood (Oliver Postgate)

Sad news. Oliver Postgate has died.

They kept playing bits of his narration on the Today programme this morning. The whole house (well, there are only two of us) stopped to listen everytime.

I still do a mean impression of Bagpuss, the mice and Professor Yaffle!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Paddick of the Jungle

Cobden's Comments has finally broken the self-imposed vow of silence (is that embarrassed silence?) of the LibDem blogosphere on the subject of one B. Paddick in the jungle.

I have nothing to add to what he said except to add a follow-up Daily Mail article on the subject for your further embarrassed cringing.

Yes, I know it's the Daily Mail but the fact it comes across as eminently believable (to me) just goes to show just how badly our former mayoral candidate came across during his fortnight in the jungle.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Downmarket Lapland on the Hampshire-Dorset border

I know this shouldn't be funny but (any animal cruelty and family days out ruined notwithstanding) it is!

I particularly like the polar bear!

I put me in mind of a real-life Grundy World of Christmas. Ah, I appeared to have given away that I may occasionally listen to the Archers! The shame...

Saturday, 29 November 2008

I call it - The Independent is dead!

My parent's have bought the Independent from Day 1 (back in 1986 when I was 11) and have had it daily ever since. They were absolutely the right Alliance-voting, sick with Murdoch (I think we had The Times before) demographic who felt totally in sync with the new paper's philosophy.

They have stuck with it through thick and (increasingly) thin.

Since I left home (15 years ago) I haven't really got a daily newspaper but I have read recently in Private Eye how it's been going downhill and become celeb-obsessed under the editorship of Roger Alton (formerly of The Observer - you would have thought that would bode well).

Well, my parents told me in a phone call that they are finally thinking of dropping The Independent because they don't read half of the paper anymore and it seems to be all about celebrities.

I could never imagine them not getting The Independent so I think this is a watershed moment. It may continue but it's definitely not now the same paper.

They are considering The Guardian...

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Arrest of Damian Green - Heads should roll!

If the reporting of this story is correct, then this is truly appalling.

It's inconceivable that someone senior in government didn't know about this. If this is true and they didn't try to stop it, they should resign, simple as. And that goes for those senior in the Met too.

As least this might might make it easier to argue with my Tory in-laws who think my talk of Civil Liberties, dangerous anti-terror laws, breakdown of trust in the police is a lot of fuss and nonsense.

Now one of theirs has been affected they may take a different view.

I think it was Al Franken (or was it Micheal Moore?) who, in one of their books, wrote an ode praying that right-wingers would have all kinds of terrible things happen too them so that they would them do something about them (ie. Reagan getting Alzeimers changed a lot of right-wing attitudes about stem-cell research).

Barclaycard - incompetent muppets who can't cope with Xmas!!


After the fiasco when they took over Goldfish, during which they forcibly issued me with a new card (invalidating my old one) a day before I was going abroad on Holiday and when none of their new phone numbers worked so I couldn't ring them up to tell them, and with them being sneaky gits, now this!

So, last night I finalise my big Xmas shop on Amazon (details of seperate Amazon trials to come!). I sent it all off and I later get an email saying their are problems with my card. I try it again, try re-entering the details and try it again, again waiting for the refusal email everytime.

I decide to have a look at my barclaycard account online. I can see the amount for the main Amazon shop (Amazon can split these up if you use some of thier other suppliers through them - this will be important later) "pending". I check back on Amazon and see that these smaller suppliers have been paid successfully with the same card, hmm. So I ring up Barclaycard.

I explain my problem to a nice Indian Lady, who asked if the transactions in question are for other small amounts which I recognise as being for the individual items coming from a couple of "Amazon suppliers". I say no, it's the larger amount for the main shop that is not working.

She says she'll transfer to the card refusal department but gives me the direct number just in case as they are suprisingly busy!

Helpful hint: If you find yourself in the same position you can avoid all that Indian call centre palaver by ringing their fraud department directly on 01604 254 050.

Anyway, I'm put on hold for ages and I give up and ring the direct number. I get through to an automated system and choose the right option and then wait for ages again. The wait is punctuated with messages saying they had unusually high demand (I wonder why?). I eventually gave up, switched the order to my old egg card (without the cashback - boo) and went to bed.

I have now just rung the fraud people and got through quite quickly. The nice man said yes they're having lots of problems and specifically mentioned that Amazon puts some orders through as seperate items (and as coming from different companies - but he didn't say that). It's obvious to me that this clearly confuses their anti-fraud algorythms.

The bottom line is that Barclaycard can't cope with an Amazon shop from different "suppliers"!

That's just great.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

PBR response - Meh

Well, that was underwhelming, maybe because of the widespread leaking.
Worse though was the sheer size of the wasted opportunity (or maybe even worse that this wasn't in any way suprising).

Whilst obviously I'd have liked them to adopt LibDem tax policies in full, I just wish they'd done something useful and good.

I think this was a 1997-type moment when they got have got away with anything progressive but just didn't bother.

I can't see how the temporary VAT cut will make any significant difference to anything and the rise in NI ( a b*stard mix of income tax and a tax on job creation) is just wrong-headed (but is always used because people don't really understand NI so let it pass more than other taxes).

I remember, back in the day, when it was LibDem policy (or was it an aspiration) to cut NI in preference to other taxes.

It's just so dispiriting, they could have announced some great changes but just didn't. What's this about bringing forward road building? What about shoving investment into new railways or at least something that will bring great benefit to the country in the long term? There must have been capital projects that they wouldn't never have normally been able to get going that they could have done.


Monday, 24 November 2008

I'm considerably more manly than thou

The Gender Analyzer says so. This blog is all man - well 85%. The important thing is that I'm 30% more manly than Jonathan Calder.

Self-congratulation - limited time only, smug levels must drop

I promised (to myself) that I'd never get into this kind of self-congratulatory blog-on-blog smugfest but suffice to say I topped the Golden Dozen! Woohoo!

Well, it gave me a little lift on a cold Monday morning...

Friday, 21 November 2008

Charles Moore threatens license fee non-payment

There was a report on Today that said that Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, was threatening to not pay his license fee if the BBC didn't sack Jonathan Ross.

Well, I think there's a simple 2-stage answer to all of this.

1. Don't sack Jonathan Ross
2. Arrest Charles Moore for non-payment

Monday, 17 November 2008

Baby P: David Lammy finally speaks...and insults Lynne Featherstone!

I was just listening to the World at One on Radio 4 and they had David Lammy MP's first interview on the Baby P case. In my partisan way I thought to myself, "I hope Lynne Featherstone's good work gets a mention". Well it did but not in the way I was expecting.

After some typically evasive New Labour defence (he also received the warning letter from the whistleblowing social worker last year), he said this (bah, it isn't available on listen again yet, but I'll update it with the accurate quote once I get a chance - so from memory):

"But what I want to say to you is over the course of the weekend, 61 headteachers, they have more experience than you or I or Lynne Featherstone who has spent a lot of time on the media over the weekend about this case..."

Hmm, maybe I am overacting but isn't he saying that Lynne is not being a good constituency MP trying to do what's right but is instead just a paritsan media-whore who's only doing this for party political reasons? It makes me mad!!! Let me know if I'm over-reacting.

It's similar to Gordon Brown's saying anyone asking sensible question about this is being party political (ie. David Cameron).

Having said all that, Lammy's clearly rattled about being exposed as a useless New Labour apologist in comparison. However it's such a tragic case I can't really take much pleasure from this (normal service will be resumed shortly with other topics).

UPDATE: The listen again is now available (the quote above is at 26:45 but I suggest you listen to the whole weaselly interview). Quote corrected above.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Baby P chief at Ascot

I'm not going to get into the in and outs or Harringay's dubious role in this (Lynne Featherstone provides good coverage of this).

One thing got my goat though. Yesterday I was in London, so got the Evening Standard and the front page had a big picture of the Sharon Shoesmith, the head of Childrens' Services at Harringay at Ascot, "Weeks after boy's death she enjoys day at the races".

This was last year. It also [sarcasm]shockingly reveals[/sarcasm] that she "enjoyed a holiday with her own children in New York and Los Angeles"!

This awful journalism makes me so angry! Because of this undoubted tradgedy, the head of the department should cancel all "fun" things and she should definitely not take her children on holiday? I mean "taking her children on holiday", how heartless can one person be? How long should this self-imposed joylessness have lasted? 2 weeks, 6 months, a year?

I somehow expected better from the Standard (I expect you London-dwellers will tell me how that's how foolhardy I am). Also a friend must have given that picture of her to the Standard (it was taken from right next to her and no-one else would know who she is). Either they are very naive or incredibly scummy.

The online equivalent of the article doesn't include the picture.

I'm sure she has things to answer for and may even have to go (but like Gordon Brown, I'm waiting for the report) but it doesn't make that front page right.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

More "Anti-Terror" Madness

El Reg is reporting that police are demanding the names of all live music performers in order to vet them for "terror risk"! This is already having an impact:

"UK Music chief Feargal Sharkey told a House of Commons select committee that the policy had already been used to pull the plug on an afternoon charity concert of school bands in a public park organised by a local councillor."


Friday, 7 November 2008

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Ipswich Labour MP Chris Mole - what an arse!

Ipswich's Labour MP Chris Mole has called on the BBC to sack Jeremy Clarkson for a joke he made about lorry driver & prostitutes alluding to the Ipswich murders. He said:

"For Mr Clarkson to make light of murder in any circumstance must be a dismissible offence.

"To do so with complete disregard for the families of the murdered women should make this a matter on which I would expect you to take immediate action."

If a comedian makes a joke is made about Fred West, should we expect the MP for Gloucester to try and get them sacked and are Shipman jokes now off-limits by order of the MP for Hyde?

But it's worse than that, he actually says "make light of murder in any circumstance"!

What an arse!

Sam the shoplifting seagull

I'm sure this local news clip has done the rounds already but I've only just seen it:

Palin was even more stupid than we thought...

Blimey! Liberal Revolution draws our attention to this video.

I think this needs wider attention! She thought Africa was a country? I'm not sure whether to be amused or angry about Bill O'Reilly trying to defend her. I guess this is the kind of Fox Schadenfreude I was looking for on election night.

So, do you feel proud of yourself now Mr. Dale?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Election night thoughts - great result, typically useless BBC

Firstly, Woohoo!!! :)

When I delved into the deeper reaches of Virgin Media's cable offering, I was happy to find that CNN international were carrying the normal US CNN election night programme. Imagine how delighted I was to find that CNBC seemed to be carrying MSNBC!

Oh, oh it's Keith Olbermann! Oh and Rachel Maddow! Looks like it's going to be a better viewing experience than I imagined.

For a while I stuck with MSNBC flicking back to CNN during the ads (lukily the ad breaks weren't in sync) then disaster! MSNBC was no longer there as CNBC had replaced it with their own boring business/finance orientated coverage. Boo!

So during breaks in CNN, I was forced to have a look at the BBC. Oh My God! It was just as bad as I'd come to expect. Dull Dimbleby discussions with Dimbleby at his smug and patronising best. No decent results or analysis and dumbed-down graphics and then that awful smug party. I mean interviewing Ricky Gervais! WTF? I mean what were they thinking? How much did they spend on this smugfest?

They do similar things for UK elecitons too, dumbed down graphics, no useful analysis and smug parties. So they really thing anybody but the likes of me is going to be watching politics at 3 in the morning? We don't need dumbed-down smugness but a proper results and analysis service.

Did I mention smug?

The only vaguely amusing thing on the BBC was Jon Bolton being beligerant and complaining of bias!

So mainly it was CNN all night. Their holographic correspondents was quite funky but didn't really add a great deal and I felt sorry for their correspondent at the Obama rally which was watching CNN and consequently went crazy everytime they were on drowning out anything she had to say. All in all though a competent and intersting results services. Why can't the BBC do this or just save money and stream CNN?

John McCain's speech was gracious but I was feeling for him when he kept trying to stop his crowd from booing Obama with ever more pleading "Please"s. The camera focuses on some knuckle-draggers in the crowd looking very confused and angry. Yeah, that was a campaign to be proud of right there...

Obama's speech was as good as you'd come to expect from him. I particularly liked when all the Bidan and Obama families came out. It was such a feel-good moment. Was that Biden's mum?

Let's see how long I can stay awake today...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A Simple Election Night In

I shall be eschewing twittering, blogging and all the delights the internet has to offer for a simple seat in my living room in front of the TV.

The main reason for this is that the computer is situated in the study and the study is too close to the bedroom. This means that frequent trips from the TV to the PC would disturb my sleeping better half (and you don't want to provoke her!).

Also, what is it with twitter? I purposely don't read anything that's twittered. Does that make me a luddite?

Ahem, anyway for those who are using the net, HuffPo (as the cool kids are calling it)has a page of useful widgets (including a stream of CBS's coverage).

I shall be stuck only with what Virgin Media can offer which seems to be BBC, ITV, CNN & CNBC (both international versions I guess), Radio 4 & Radio 5. I predict much changing of channels as I I anticipate that I won't be able to put up with the BBC's smug coverage for sustained periods!

Happy election nights folks!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The worst campaign call ever!

Unfortunately for John McCain, some states in America don't allow robocalls so the calls have to be made live by real people. This is a problem if your campaign hasn't got many enthusiastic volunteers and you have to hire in help. You end up with calls like the one here.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

US election night parties in the UK?

Whilst it seems the great and the good get to go to a party in the US embassy, what about the rest of us?

Adrian Sanders points us to this pro-Obama party in South Kensington run by Americans Away from Home and I've found this more bi-partisan event in Leicester Square.

So far so London-centric. What about the rest of the country? Flock Together only lists an event in Winchester. I seem to remember reading about a Welsh LibDem event but my best google-skillz can't unearth it. Is there anything else out there?

A feature of the two London parties seems to be live streaming of CNN & Fox which brings me to my next question, what are the terrestrial channels doing about it. Is there something for those without a party to watch on TV?

Well, the BBC are doing they're own thing but I'd much rather watch the real thing rather than what Dimbleby and his minions decide we should see, filtered through their bad-graphics and smug party! Also ITV are doing a results show but I'd rather have to ability to watch/laugh at Fox News when the good news (hopefully) starts coming in!

Is there a way to get the raw stuff (the interweb I suppose but it's not the same)?

It's time to party like it's 1997!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Soft on Crime - in the US

News that the Republicans are now making robocalls accusing Obama of being Soft on Crime because he opposes mandatory sentences for certain kinds of crimes like drug offenses and murder, made be think how the misleading fear issues that the right (and I include both establishment parties in this) use against "liberals" (well, that's only us really) are very similar both sides of the pond.

Ths is an extract from the call recording by Ex-Mayor Giuliani:

"Congressional liberals introduced a bill to eliminate mandatory prison sentences for violent criminals -- trying to give liberal judges the power to decide whether criminals are sent to jail or set free."

Er, isn't that the point of judges?

However this is precisely the attack that we get levelled against us (actually more by Labour, although they both do it) becuase we have a sensible sentencing policy that recognises the seperation of politicians and judges.

I wish I had some amazing conclusions to draw from this to help us in the future but I don't.
Only to refer readers to a previous post.

Is there a clever tactic to answer these attacks or or thre simple no-way to shortcut the process of explaining it over and over again? And how do we get people to listen?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Palin - the gift that keeps giving!

After spending $150,000 on her wardrobe, did no-one think to check whether she was wearing a "Vote Democrat" scarf?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Monday, 20 October 2008

Palin letters

I was reading the Sarah Palin section of the Sunday times letters page yesterday. They were mostly from disgusted republicans but this one from D Peake of Exeter made me laugh:

"Palin will be a breath of fresh air – something we could do with after the horror that is new Labour with its Blair-inspired destruction of our history and traditions."

Um, I think someone is confusing their countries...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Racist Americans

In Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama, he mentioned how "the pictures on Al Jazeera" were doing harm to the view of America in the world.

Well, I think this is what he meant:

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Ros - "She's clearly the best one"

I sent away the wife (very non-political) with the three A4s that came with the presidential ballot paper and asked her to look through them and tell me how I should vote. After a while, I went and asked for her conclusions. (yes, it's that fun in our house!)

She pulled out Ros's and said "Well, she's clearly the best one".

About Lembit she said "He should stop appearing on TV".

On Chandila's, I'm afraid she was quite negative and used a lot of bad words, which I will paraphrase as "bloody student!". She also said "He'll probably be leading your party in the future as that's how politics works". She didn't mean that as a compliment!

Anyways, she decided on the order:

Ros - 1
Lembit - 2
Chandila - 3

which, interestingly, was exactly the same as mine.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Whadda mistaka to maka

It seems a junior lawyer has made an Excel conversion error that caused Barclays to buy up more of Lehman Brothers than it meant (ie. it got some extra rubbish bits).

Well, we've all made such mistakes, but usually not as costly.

Controversial Policies - Drop or Explain?

Himmelgarten Cafe has picked up on Chris Huhne defending judges ignoring minimum sentences and giving lower sentences and wonders whether we will, over time, avoid being crucified by the right-wing/populist press.

Well, I think it's the only strategy we can go with. If we are to have the numerous sensible, well-thought out policies that are also controversial or easily badly spun by our opponents that we undoubtedly and rightly do have, then hiding them away and hoping no-one will notice is not an option.

Because they will notice and they will say nothing now, but will bring them up at election time in a blaze of publicity when it is too late to even try and explain the nuances.

Unless we plan to drop these policies altogether (which would be bad) we have no choice but to get them out there and start defending them repeatedly as soon as possible.

One of reasons the establishment parties and media can characterise us as flip-flopping when we actually have the most stable and consistent platform of all the parties (since our inception) is that sometimes the answer really is "yes and no". We're never going to be able to overcome this in the current soundbite debate. So either we dilute our principles or we find better ways of explaining ourselves.

I know conventional wisdom is that people don't look at literature for very long and you can't get away with any kind of detailed argument but I've always wondered whether the party literature topbods could produce a serious of single issue (and I really mean single issue) foci that would explain one of our nuances positions (Why mandatory sentences are bad, Why should drug possessors not go to jail, etc.) in detail. Maybe a "What We Think" series. (since no one bloody knows anyway!)

I suspect this may be pie in the sky but one can dream...

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Presidential ballot papers

Well, I got the presidential ballot papers today.

Lembit has the better looking and set-out bit of A4 although his pitch seems to be "I can build on my high profile" for the benefit of the party of course but I'm not surely sure he really needs to or needs the position of president to do it.

At least he has a realistic membership target: "Achieve positive membership growth by 2010". I seem to recall Simon promising something ridiculous like doubling membership last time.

Ros's was the second best A4 although I'm not sure it was really necssary to have a contact cut-out and send back box (I want to: Sign up as a supporter, Help, Find out more about Ros, Make a donation, Receive campaign news) . Surely that's a bit late? I imagine LibDems are the kind to return their ballots pretty quickly (is there evidence either way?).

I suspect it's the experience of too many focii!

Not too much jumps out at me from the page but I suspect not being Lembit maybe sufficient.

Chandila Fernando's is an odd one. He seems to have quite diverse "Industry Experience" (I want to know more about the Indian cinema themed restaurant!). However I'm always slightly put off by candidates who do the CV thing but with the same kind of wording you use to impress employers by claiming wider experience than one may have (I'm not saying this is the case but it reads that way to me).

In the same way his degree is (Lond.) which could mean almost anything from Imperial to South Bank. Not that that matters in the slightest, it just feels wrong somehow. In fact that was the first thing that leapt out at me.

The second thing was "Atrract (sic) new talent". Oh well, we've all left a typo in and only noticed once we've printed silly amounts. I can only imagine the pit of the stomach feeling he must have felt (or do I just over-react!)

As other have pointed out, he seems to be a breath of fresh air but some of his ideas are dangerously half-cock I think. I would fight tooth and nail any hare-brained attempt to replace our Libby in some fruitless rebranding exercise!

Also, outside of the blogosphere and party apparachiks, who has actually heard of the Bones commision or if they have, read it?

Also he did a politics degree, so I don't like him! :) Way to insult the majority of the political blogosphere, I'd wager.

I shall be voting Ros 1 but haven't yet decided on further preferencing...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Troopergate: Unbridled Joy!

Is it wrong/immature to react to the conclusion of the Troopergate report with unbridled joy?

I have to say I did. When I heard the news on the 9am Radio 4 news this morning whilst lying in bed and did let out a semi-shouted "Yes!". That was in reaction to the news by the way (Mrs. L was still asleep:). And when it came round again at 10am I still listened to it with a big grin on my face.

I've found it fascinating to follow its reporting on US news sites and especially how the Republicans/Fox News are responding (by pretending it said something else really). Apparently the reason it came out so late on Friday was that the Republicans were delaying it past the deadline for the evening news bulletins. I hope it isn't forgotten or spun away by Monday.

I've found this US election the most interesting one I can remember.

Letwin says bankers will respond to public opinion

On Any Questions, Oliver Letwin said about the dubious bonus culture that he thought that bankers would see what public opinion was about then and change their ways because of this!

Yeah, right!

Banker 1: I hear public opinion is against us being paid loads whatever we do.
Banker 2: Blimey, I didn't realise that public opinion was against us, we should pay ourselves less.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Iain Dale has finally come off the US Election fence

As evidenced here, he's come out reluctantly for Obama.

Damn him, I was going to write a piece entitled "When will Iain Dale come off the fence?". Just goes to show that you should strike when the inspiration iron is hot!

I'm used to his blind partisan (and in election periods, too shrill to read) posts on UK politics but I never quite understood why he was applying his same "style" to the US elections.

Especially his repeated dogged defence of the clearly unsuitable Sarah Palin, picking up and blindly running with every Republican defence line (rabidly posted in the comments of a thousand leftish US blogs).

I never really understood why anyone from a mainstream UK party would ever support the republicans. A far as I can see both (yes only two) US parties are more right-wing than our entire mainstream politics in terms of the extent of the influence of big business on and the bareface lobbying/bribing by big companies of all levels and parties of government (which seems to always work). Maybe that's naive/partisan of me to see that as right-wing...

However on the flip side they are both big government spenders and protectionist.

Socially of course, Republicans are so far off the right of the scale it's untrue and this has been the case for as long as I can remember.

And before people like Iain Dale say it was different when his hero Reagan was there, I suggest he watch Boogieman: The Lee Atwater Story which I'm pretty sure I saw on BBC4 the other night (or at least a version of it). Scary stuff.

Anyway Iain assures us that now nearly half of his powerful new friends wouldn't lynch him given half a chance anymore, so that's okay.

Clearly, the reality-rhetoric gap eventually got too wide even for him.
Fingers crossed for election day...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Working for the public good in the money markets!

Some religious bod on Thought for the Day on this morning Today programme said we should pay attention to the "pastoral needs" City types who have been affected by the recent financial crisis.

If his argument was that they have families to feed too and they can be hurt like anyone then I could see that but what he said was that "whilst there were some rogue traders like rogue plumbers and rogue car-salesmen" there were many people of "integrity and faith who work for the public good" because they manage money markets and give to charity!!!

Give me a break!! What do people who go to work in the City really go there for? The "public good" or oodles of cash?

There was a time when the Church used to actually apply the teachings of Jesus* to their public pronouncements on society. It's a far cry from how the Church of Scotland rightly treated Margaret Thatcher when she came up to lecture them about morality based on her perverse reading of the Good Samaritan!

*I'm not religious, it's just the principle of the thing. :)

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Barclaycard are sneaky gits!

Having abandoned my Barclaycard long ago, I am unfortunately now back in the fold as they have taken over my Morgan Stanley/Goldfish cashback card.

So they've cancelled my old card before its expiry and sent me a new one, meaning I'll have to be vigilante for invalidated card details left around the interweb when I want to buy something. I have also had to register for their online serivce in order to easily pay the bill.

Now on all previous cards (including the last Barclaycard) the online pay options were as follows:

- Pay previous bill in ful - say £500 (let's call that B)
- Pay minimum amount - say - £20
- Pay custom amount

I would always pay the previous bill in full.

Now, I notice the options are:

Your previous bill was £500 (B).
- Pay current balance - ie. previous bill + recent spending - say £500 + £200 (B + R)
- Pay minimum amount - say - £20
- Pay custom amount

So, there is no longer an option to just pay my bill. I have to copy the amount into the custom amount box.

They are trying to trick me into over paying! If you weren't used to this you would just pay the larger amount thinking this is what you do (as it's presented as the default!).

Sneaky gits!

The Black Police Association are Idiots?

I'm glad it's not just me, Meral's Musings thinks there is something amiss here too.

Please tell me I'm missing a subtlety here but the Black Police Association (BPA) is to not just boycott recruitment of BME officers but to actually use members' money to take out adverts in papers telling potential BME recruits not to apply to the force!

Isn't this completely wrong-heading, counter-productive and idiotic? Am I missing something?

I heard this first on the Today programme yesterday morning and whilst they were a useful and needed debate about racism in the force, everybody was pussyfooting around the use of these ridiculous tactics.

Maybe this was just done to raise awareness and to prompt action (such as the varous reviews that have now been promised), in which case I guess you could make an argument for the threat of a boycott (but not of actively discouraging BME recruits). However, I caught the head of the BPA on the London News:

Q: Do you welcome the enqiry set up by Boris?

A: Yes, very much so, a really positive step.

Q: Will you withdraw your boycott?

A: No.

Again, this was not pushed any further.

How can stopping BME recruits ever be helpful in tackling racism in an organisation? It's madness. Also, in the case of the police, this willl actually have a negative effect on community relations and therefore on the ability to solve/prevent crime.

And surely it will make it harder to create a representative force as the BPA have just told a swathe of BMEs not to join!

Is this just a case of bolshy egos at the top of a sortof-union or am I missing a really clever tactic that isn't at all counter-productive?

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Esther vs. the PC Brigade

I don't watch Tonight often as I know it will be terrible sensationalist dumbed-down rubbish that will either cause me to shout at the TV or my brain to melt, but sometimes I'm pulled in by a title...

I see that Norfolk Blogger has already blogged on this. I completely agree with what he said.

The premise was that people wouldn't approach lost kids due to fears of being labeled a paedophile which I think is a fair point (and a trend that worries me).

However, this is nothing to do with Political Correctness! It's like in Cameron's speech when we said he was sick of Human Rights and Health & Safety and then listed lots of things that were to do with Health & Safety and nothing to do with Human Rights!

Also, the irony wasn't lost on me that this climate of fear over paedophiles was created and encouraged by appalling tabloid programmes like and including Tonight (and maybe a bit of Esther) in the first place.

Anway, back to the programme. They put young kids in a shopping centre and told them to look lost and then tutted when people didn't stop. The first kid (a boy) stood still by an escalator. I have to say I don't think I would have stopped (unless I could see he'd been there for a while) as he wasn't doing a very good job of looking distressed.

The girl did a better job but unsurprisingly most people who approached them were women (who are never dodgy you see). One man didn't approach but alerted a security guard because he was a sports team coach and had been told in training never to approach a child on your own to avoid people misconstruing your intentions. The other man did stop but deliberately kept his distance and looked distinctly uncomfortable when a charging Esther and film crew bore down on him!

I have to say, I would also be nervous stopping imagining an angry tabloid-reading tattoed parent coming runnning at me from a nearby JJB Sports at any moment and causing me bodily harm. Not merely because they thought I was a paedophile but also because when I'd explained they would take it as an insult to their parenting abilities!

I never know what to make of Esther these days...

Now the two party conferences are over...

Or so Jonathan Dimbleby informed us on the trailer for Any Questions on Friday's Today programme.


Tuesday, 23 September 2008

BBC coverage of Brown speech

Having watched the 6 O'Clock news I see that wall-to-wall uncritical coverage and adulation is the BBC order of the day...sigh.

Good speech I thought...

Regardless of whether it was backed up by the facts or record, I thought Brown's conference speech just now was good.

Now it will be interesting to see how the media covers it... (is Andrew Neil that negative post-speech for all parties?)

It will be interesting to see whether there is a post-conference bounce for Labour. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your viewpoint, I'll miss it as I'm off on Holiday, Wohoo!

Bah, (FX: dons tinfoil hat) I reckon this Labour leadership plot was all a plot to divert coverage from our conference. Was he really ever in danger?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Everyone's "Making it Happen"

Is it just me or were the Labour delegates and ministers interviewed on the Today programme this morning using the phrase "Making it Happen" and "Make it happen" rather a lot?

Sincerest form of flattery I guess...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Don't "listen", "do"!

Firstly let gets this out the way, in a comment my post on our new broadcast, anders defends it by saying that the people's stories are real. Look, I'm not suggesting they weren't real, that we don't have the best policies, that we aren't the only ones to have any, that we aren't different from other parties, that we wouldn't take positive action or that we wouldn't listen but...

My (numerous!) points are purely presentational.

Obviously we should be and are a listening party unlike the others. The problem is the "establishment parties" (great phrase that Nick has used and should use more often) say they are too and say it ALL the time. The public know they're not. Every time Gordon Brown loses a by-election he comes on and makes a speech that no-one believes about how the government has to listen.

No-one believes it!!! Saying we need to listen has become a shortcut to saying standard, insincere, duplicitous, only looking out for their own jobs politician scum with no ideas to offer!

Even if I had got through the awful "emotive" music and the awful acting, I would have switched off our PPB as soon as Nick had started talking about listening, having learnt all I need to know about the LibDems. I thought they may be just the same as all the others, now I know they are.

Sadly, I always watch LibDem stuff (when I can find it) willing it be good and make full use of any opportunity to be heard we can grab so I did watch it all the way through. I found myself almost screaming at the screen... okay I did actually scream, how sad is that! Feel sorry for the missus!

Nick quite rightly said in his speech that Cameron has "tried to take over every comforting, soft-focus word in the dictionary". Well, they haven't just tried, they have mostly succeeded. It was absolutely right that we should mock his use of them (but more aggressively, custard? come on! Someone's been watching too much Russell Howard on Mock The Week!) to make it harder for him and hope the public realise.

Except I think they do. By taking over these words Camerom has also devalued them (to the level of "listen", and , to be fair this isn't just Cameron as it has been going on for longer) which means even we can't sound sincere using them.

So we shouldn't. Use them that is.

Also this is all the more imperative as the media/establishment parties are trying to push the dismissive "Nick is Cameron-lite" angle. Only this morning on Today they had a quick round up of the sketchwriters response to Nick's speech which all sounded very negative. They quoted Quentin Letts saying Nick was a "Cameron tribute act". I know we can all dismiss this as deliberately biased rubbish designed to undermine us (esp. from the Daily HateMail) which it is but that's not the point, it works! The media feeds on itself, the BBC repeated it this morning (as it's a good line which fits in with there easy 2-party story) and soon it will become the public memory of the speech.

We have to do everything we can to not appear like the others. I know we're not and we keep talking about how we should be edgy but I don't see it.

We should change things around, instead of saying:

This is a terrible problem, look here's someone with that terrible problem, we should be listening and as Liberal Democrats we would...

surely we should say:

Bam! Liberal Democrats would do this! In order to solve this problem.
Bam! Liberal Democrats would do this! In order to solve this problem.
Go on, ask the others what they would do.




Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Great speech but... (pt 2)

I'm not sure it was really necessary to say we were heading for government (however cleverly couched). It just allows for headlines like:

"Clegg tells Lib-Dems: We're on our way to power"

which at a first glance just makes us sound delusional and allows people to just read the headline and not the article by dismissing it as a typical, they're all the same, substance-less leaders speech.

I don't think conference would have minded had it not been said (it didn't look like they were expecting it!).

Good speech, shame about the jokes...

Okay, most of them were okay but:

"Zombie government"

Excellent, excellent soundbite for for news...

"a cross between Shaun of the Dead and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue"

Oh dear a clunkly, forced, unfunny joke that relies on a reference to a Radio 4 programme!

Worse than that it was said directly after the zombie soundbite without a gap so it has to be featured in the news along with the good zombie soundbite. Who writes this stuff?

Also, I'm not sure this reliance on "real people" stories really works apart from the disabled kid which , I think, did as it illustrated positive action instead of just saying people have it bad (yes the people you are telling know this and it could come across as condescending).

Apart from that a thumbs up.

Terrible headline and it's all our fault!

The BBC is now covering Nick's speech as Lib Dems 'headed for government' as I worried about in my previous post.

This just makes us look delusional or just another bunch of faker politicians who will say anything regardless of the what people know to be truth. More importantly it obscures the important messages that we were trying to put out.

Yes, I know it wasn't meant in that way but we should know by now how these things pan out in the media (I'm sure they've picked up on something similar and used it as the main message in previous leader's speeches in the past - and I put my head in my hands then as well!)

We as LibDems have to put as simple a message as possible out without anything extraneous the media could use to distract from it. We make similar mistakes every year. Yes, you could say that the media would always pick up on something but we shouldn't make it easy for them.

The other distraction is the robocalling but so far we seem to have been lucky having watched the BBC's 6 O'Clock report but we'll have to see tomorrow's papers to see if we've managed to dodge that particular distracting bullet.

The new party conference broadcast (pt 2)

As if to prove my point about a direct, honest, piece to camera this latest Obama ad (over on Liberal Burblings) is excellent!

The new party conference broadcast

It seems I'm not the only one who thinks those "real life" stories of hardship don't work.

Julian Glover in the Guardian says : "This sort of thing is tiresome and a bit fake".

Unfortunately, having watched out new party conference broadcast, this is exactly what we are doing more of. Except this time, each person had to be shown with "Actor" emblazoned across the screen, just so everyone knows that we're just another all style and no substance party!

I really had to force myself to listen to what they were then (hamilly) saying.

Again, with the awful music. Surely our USP is that we are different to other parties and actually have useful policies or any at all. How is a music-laden PPB with actors going to help with this?

IMHO, our best PPB was a post-budget one with Vince calmly, and at length, explaining how Chancellor Gordon Brown had massively expanded the taxcode. I found it really engaging.

Why not just have Nick talking to camera?

We are supposed to be different. Why do we insist on doing these throwaway PPBs?

Of course, maybe the party had done extensive research and this is exactly what people respond to and I'm completely wrong but I doubt it.

I hope the robocalling doesn't overshadow the speech

The issue of the robocalling of 250,000 people was bothering me and I'm sure this will be something the other parties will be pressing the media to make the story like so.

Let's hope it doesn't spread!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

What conference?

We weren't mentioned at all on the 6 O'Clock news!

Is the conference still on? (rhetorical question)

We've got to keep this tax message clear..Danger sighted

Listening to Nick's interview this morning on the Today programme, I can see a potential narrative danger arising.

Firstly, I think Nick mixed up his millions and billions a few times (at least I think he did, better watch that).

But more worryingly, the interview left me with an impression that we were just saying tax cuts were a good idea but we didn't have any costed (typical wooly LibDems). Whereas the position is that the 4p cut in income tax is fixed and it's just further tax haven't been costed yet (due to state of country's finances etc.).

I think the lie that we haven't committed to anything, are being typically wooly, sums don't add up, not serious etc. is one that our opposition parties and the media will gladly pick up on and repeat ad nauseum and we need to nip it in the bud quickly.

We should (if we have the power) deflect the story away from possible future tax cuts (wooly) and let them conflate the "defining tax vote" and the already announced 4p income tax cut.

Monday, 15 September 2008

We've moved ahead of Prince William!

Well, the news of the vote on tax cuts moved us up by a minute on the BBC 10 O'Clock news to only 22 minutes in and we just sneaked ahead of the royal news.

Unfortunately, they managed to find the most stereotypical liberal to show giving the opposing view...

Conference reduced to less than 1m20s

...Just now on the 6 O'Clock News. First and only mention was at 6:23pm. I normally would have switched off by then (especially after another turgid but lengthy report on the Labour party).

We were even beaten by a Buck House press release about Prince William.

"traditionally seen as a tax and spend party", "complete turnaround", hmm, well it least it sort of got our message out, even if it was illustrated by a particularly dull bit of Vince's speech. (Sorry Vince!)

I was going to pen a piece about our coverage and lack thereof (esp. BBC) ages ago but first waited for our Make It Happen launch (which manged to get Nick a spot on the coveted post-8:30am, everyone's gone to work and stopped listening spot on Today) and now I think I'll see how conference is reported from the outside (I'm not there)...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

I've now read the Green Alliance report...

Having now read the Green Alliance report, I think the blame lies mainly with the writer of their Press Release and also trying too hard to seem even handed in the actual report. Whilst it is scathing in places about the other parties, this is all it could find negative to say about the LibDems:

"We have not identified any specific low points where the Liberal Democrats have taken an anti-environment position over the past twelve months. But we are concerned by the decline in profile and priority given to environmental issues, from the party that has so often led the way. With the exception of Nick Clegg’s announcement on energy, the Liberal Democrats have not been making the political weather on the environment as they have done in the past. We need the party to be more visible over the next twelve months and to set the pace on environmental issues, particularly in the run-up to the next general election."

Hmm, well, I don't think they've really helped in making the party "more visible over the next twelve months".

Also, as if to illustrate the point, the report has pretty graphics illustrating the balance of environmental "highs" and "lows" of each party. Both the Conservatives and Labour have more lows than highs, whereas we are distincly top-heavy with only one "low": "LibDem Leadership on the environment wanes"!

However, whilst the press release does mention some of our positives and those of the Conservatives (Cameron made a speech, "the environment is quite important, wot!", yeah well done), it starts by saying how all the parties are failing and has a quote from Stephen Hale, director of Green Alliance:

"None of the three main parties are currently showing the vision and courage to prepare the UK for the challenges ahead."

It then goes on to bulletpoint the failings of the three parties. Again our "failing" is derisory, "Nick Clegg has not yet set the pace", woah!

However this is enough for lazy (and to be fair, busy) journalists to write their "plague on all their houses" story.

If the Green Alliance had intended to raise the debate about climate change and pressure politicians or all parties to change, they have singularly failed. However, maybe they would tell you that if they had released it more accurately it wouldn't have even been made into a story?

New website down and then up again?

The new party website went through a period of being weird:

...It seems to be back up now.

Unless it was a problem my end?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The universe is not in danger...yet!

A comfortable place is relieved we all still exist.
However I'm afraid the moment of truth hasn't happened yet.

Green Report critisises parties equally?

The Today programme had a report on a report from Green activists (CPRE, FoE, NT, RSPB, etc.) that "critises all the major parties" about their lack of Green credentials.

Surely, that can't be right, I thought. I wonder what they think we're doing badly on.

The two-way went some thing like:

Presenter: So, has this report picked out any particular party or is it a plague on all their houses?
Correspondent: They all come in for criticism. Some politicians I spoke to are glad they are all criticised as it's less damaging.

(Blimey, we must have done something bad).

The summary she then gave was:

Labour - Inadequate
Conservatives - All style and no substance
LibDems - (must be bad...)Have lost their traditional leadership is these issues

What? Leadership? The media don't report this, yes we know this.

Sorry, are we still the only party with any decent Green policies? Yes. Are we still proposing a massive shift to green taxation? Yes. Oh, maybe we've quietly dropped some policies recently? No!

So, a story which should have been good for us has instead become a all politicians are the same story to prepetuate people's dissillusionment with politicians.

I couldn't find this story on the BBC website but found the PA report. Hmm, as well as saying the LibDems "have seen their lead on green issues "wane" at points during the year" (strong criticism indeed!) it also described our position on zero carbon as "brave and bold".

It also said that Labour's position was "incoherent and contradictory" and there was an"increasingly alarming" gap between the conservative's green aspirations and commitments.

So is this the fault of the BBC's shoddy reporting or the fault of the press release that felt it had to appear even handed by criticising all parties but in actually just levelled them all done to the same level and mitigated any positive impact on the debate this report might have had?

Bah, who do I complain to?

Monday, 8 September 2008

Price Inflation...Ha!

Colgate Regular toothpaste (their bottom of the range) was 89p now £1.45! That's an increase of 62% by my reckoning.

Okay, they have added a "New Improved" line to it but I'm not falling for that...

I don't want an improved one, it's like forcing people to get Vista. Bah!

Yes, yes free market, I could start using a different brand but where to start? Any ideas?

Saturday, 6 September 2008

A bumper crop of nutters

Radio 4's Any Nut^H^H^HAnswers which follows on the Saturday repeat of Any Questions always makes for an interesting if frustrating listen with it's succession of cliched stereotypes ringing in (mostly right-wing, it's Political Correctness Gone Mad, Left-wing BBC bias, never did me any harm types, although I can't help but have a soft-spot for the old brigadiers but never the Mary Whitehouses!).

This recent edition outdid itself in terms of nutter quantity and quality.

First we had the man who said we should stop building wind farms and just build loads of coal plants. Jonathan Dimbleby put it to him that burning coal would release lots of CO2 into the atmosphere. His answer to this was classic and even included the phrase "you people at the BBC"!

His contention was that "you people at the BBC" always say the ice melting will cause sea-levels to rise but if you melt ice in a glass the water level goes down (I thought it stayed the same?). I found myself shouting at the radio "but most of the ice is on land"!! Luckily a contributor did point this out later in the programme.

JD did try, in vain, to point out that it wasn't "you people at the BBC" saying things but reporting scientists saying things

In the same vein we also had a rabid email ending with "I bet you won't read this out", sigh...

Then there was a Mary Whitehouse type who made the point that we shouldn't say Sarah Palin was exteme in being a creationist as there were many who agreed in the US (fair point) but then went on to say that I think you'll find that most people agreed with her around the world (you could almost hear the mad-staring eyes). She obviously wanted to be challenged on this so she could spout forth but JD wasn't rising to it (I'm sure you could hear him rolling his eyes several times).

She also thought it was wrong that people responded to creationists by mocking them. I'm not sure how else you are supposed to respond to someone who thinks the world is 6,000 years old and children played happily with T-Rexs!

Climate change sceptics like Iain Dale at least have a small amount of scientific dissent to reinforce their belief that climate change is a left-wing plot to make them earn slightly less money (like social justice) but I think you'd have a harder time with the whole friendly dinosaur proposition!

My favorite contribution was from someone I can only describe as a Mike Giggler of indeterminate politics:

MG: I've got a sexist joke about Sarah Palin, can I tell it?
JD: Go ahead...
MG: She says she's a bulldog with lipstick, so what does that make her?
JD: (I'm sure I could hear more rolling of eyes)
MG: Do you get it?
JD: No. (silence)
MG: She says she's a bulldog with lipstick, so what does that make her?
JD: I don't know what you're trying to say

(obviously this is from my hazy memory so not verbatim)

Hmm, this post seem to have become is bit Wilcocksian in length. I'll try to less verbose in future (fat chance!)

Friday, 5 September 2008

First Post

I'm new to this blogging lark, so I might do this wrong.

I decided that instead of screaming at the TV/Radio/long-suffering better-half, I might blog to save on therapy bills!

I'm a Liberal Democrat by temperament and membership but not as involved as I should be.

We'll see how this goes...