As mentioned before I was asked by Dizzy and James Higham to list the top 7 things I did in 2006.
1. In Spring me and my girlfriend spent a week as helpers taking disabled kids to Lourdes with this charity. I was looking after a wonderful chap called Paul who has Down's Syndrome. To be honest, I didn’t give much back to the community in my 20s, but this was a uniquely rewarding experience. I think I’ll do it again in 2008.
2. At around the same time, I did a little campaigning in Birmingham and Hounslow for the May council elections. The Tories gained control of Hounslow for the first time in 36 years and the celebration evening a few weeks later was unforgettable. A few tears were shed by some of the old guard.
3. Spent the best part of July in Bulgaria and Northern Greece. The Halkidiki coastal area of Greece which comprises three peninsulas is beautiful and the people certainly demonstrated their legendary friendliness. Here’s me partaking in a Greek tradition on a boat trip to Mount Athos. We met a wonderful Greek Cypriot couple that day.
4. Later in the Summer, I met up with some old uni mates and went surfing for the first time. It was pretty stormy conditions at time but as my signature blogging picture shows, I did manage to catch a wave or two.
5. In October I went to Conservative conference and met several other prominent bloggers in London on the Friday before. Twas my first conference and like I had an exhausting but exhilarating time there – and managed to do a fair amount of blogging. See archives.
6. Organised a couple of blogging campaigns and rode on the tail of a few others. I was most pleased by the result of the Danny Dewsbury campaign and the year culminated on a high yesterday. I was flattered to receive an CBE from Tory Radio for work done to higlight blogging as a campaign tool.
Right, so that’s six. Just one more to think of.
31 December 2006
As mentioned before I was asked by Dizzy and James Higham to list the top 7 things I did in 2006.
I don't think 2006 was a momentous year in politics, but it was a fascinating one. I've been asked to do a meme by Dizzy and James Higham on the seven best things I did in 2006 which I will do. But there were also some political disappointments, so I'll give you my bad news first. Here are my top 7 disappointments in descending order of personal importance. Very few Labour items as their failings rarely surprise any more. Feel free to comment.
1. Slovakia’s Nightmare Coalition
Despite the leading right-wing party increasing their percentage of the vote, a new coalition formed that excluded them and all of their former coalition partners. Here are the main players in the new coalition.
Robert Fico, a former communist and a leader of the left-wing populist party "Smer". His political hero? Castro.
Ján Slota, leader of the Slovak National Party on record as saying that the solution to the gypsy problem is "a small courtyard and a long whip" and keen on taking some tanks to Budapest.
And last, but not least Vladimír Mečiar, the boss of HZDS and the former "strongman" prime minister responsible for strangling democracy during his time in government. The European politician most resembling Slobodan Milosevic imho.
On a popular Slovak news website, visitors were asked what they think about the new government and 63% answered that they are thinking about emigration. In that case why did you vote for any of the above?
2. Stalemate in Czech (no pun intended)
Elections took place in June. There is still no government. Politicians of all hues deliberately bringing their profession into disrepute. A national disgrace.
3. The May
Jack Straw who was a very competent Foreign Secretary goes, Prescott stays in post.
4. George Osborne
So many open goals missed and irritatingly painted the Tories into a corner with his incendiary statements on tax. Focus on spending, George. And if you can't destroy Brown with logic, reason and the facts, find something else to do other than being Shadow Chancellor.
5. British Airways
BA's refusal to let a woman worker openly wear a cross which even had the idiot CEO Willie Walsh holding out for a week in defence of this disgusting authoritarianism before caving in under financial pressure.
6. Girlfriend's Mum Misses Out In Mayoral Race
Ran for the SDKU in her small village. Couldn’t overturn the alcoholic incumbent. Nothing to say really. Early to bed that night.
7. Close But No Cigar
I did some leafleting in Birmingham Oscott in the May elections. We missed out by 22 votes in May. Next time.
30 December 2006
Journalist/diarist (his words) Guido Fawkes has returned with a vengeance and in a clever ploy he's two days ahead of the rest of us. His latest post
will be was written on January 1 2007.
Makes you want to pack up doesn't it?
Welfare, justice, protection and truth are the most fundamental roles of government. Here are my quotes of 2006 to give you a flavour of how Labour are doing.
Sadiq Khan Labour MP for Tooting and member of the Public Accounts Committee "grilling" NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson.
"Can you imagine how depressed some of us are, who not long ago argued for putting up taxes to fund the NHS?"
John Reid, Labour's latest Home Secretary on his department.
"Unfit for purpose...It's inadequate in terms of its scope, it's inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes,"
Tony Blair being interviewed by David Frost on Al-Jazeera. Frost suggested that the West's intervention in Iraq had
"so far been pretty much of a disaster." Blair replied: "It has"
Can I open this one to my readers? - I want the quote of the year by a Labour politician that best reflects Labour's attitude to truth.
(Update Thunderdragon's Blair quote is shading it at the moment).
PS - Going off line for a bit. New Year's party to organise.
Despite not being (anything like) fluent in each other's native language, me and my girlfriend's Slovak father get on really well. One of our shared interests is rock music. He used to be a long-haired rocker in the 70s and the pictures of him and his bandmates are cool. Take a look through his record collection and one city dominates - my home town of Birmingham. Here are all the artists in his collection that are strongly linked to the Birmingham area.
Judas Priest (pictured)
The Move (featuring Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood)
That's miles more than any other city. This article shows that it is not just in the area of rock and heavy metal where Brum has had a great impact musically. Can I make this political? You bet I can. As described by Nigel Hastilow, there is something of an identity crisis in the region aided and abetted by unwanted regional government organisations. As I said in the comments to his post.
As someone who travels widely I find it very easy to describe Birmingham. "It's in the centre of England and Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath originated from the region making it the birthplace of heavy metal"
Discussions then move easily to our industrial heritage, Shakespeare etc etc. It's not rocket science. Some people need their heads banged together.
Despite this incredible heritage, I can't think of anything on the Birmingham tourist trail that tells this culturally significant story. As the Tory run council has improved services and delivered council tax rises which are amongst the lowest in the country, our opponents main angle of attack seems to be that we don't have a vision. My good friend and Birmingham City Centre council candidate, Peter Smallbone is inviting readers to contribute to the Conservative's May 2007 election manifesto. So here's my suggestion.
I'd like to see the establishment of a Birmingham Music Museum covering the main musical styles influenced by Birmingham musicians since the 1950s (UB40 pictured). I imagine that this could be attached to a pub with a music venue and would be a commercial venture. The main council "investment" would be for "Marketing Birmingham" to commit to provide the venue with free promotion subject to the venue meeting certain criteria re facilities and quality. Such an addition to the sights of Birmingham would be very welcome and definitely worth the investment.
As we are currently redeveloping Eastside, an area just outside Birmingham's CBD, I'd love to see a museum emerge in that area. It would be a great thing for me to take my Slovak friends (or indeed other outsiders) around when they come to visit Birmingham.
29 December 2006
One of the prime benefits arising from blogging is the chance to meet (and occasionally work with) like-minded individuals. Tim Montgomerie, the editor of Conservative Home is one of those people. Amongst the things I like about Tim is that he has a track record of putting his own political convictions ahead of party politics.
Why am I bowing and scraping I hear you ask? Well, I do mean it actually, but I have to confess that I want to turn the conversation to the inaugural Conservative blog awards 2006. Many of you might not yet be aware of this invitation for nominations. I think it's great that a range of blogs can be recognised in this way and have made a few suggestions of my own. My only gripe is that I'd also like to see a category for most innovative blogging concept to give a chance to non-traditional blogs like Tory Radio, Serf and Beau Bo D'Or.
Pay a visit and leave your suggestions. I wouldn't wish to influence readers, but for sheer man hours spent on the Danny Dewsbury and the Councillor Piper affair (see my archives) I would be delighted if someone were to second Croydonian in nominating me for the blog campaign award. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but winning that award would be a great motivation for me to cast aside my anonymity.
As predicted here John McTernan, director of Labour's political operations has been interviewed for a second time about
covering things up "gaps in evidence".
The journey to where we are today has seemed long and arduous, but this Gulf Times article is a quick and easy way for you to refresh on the background and get up-to-date with the unfolding drama.
The image from Beau Bo D'Or (hat tip) must go down as one of the most elegant pieces of visual satire in recent memory. I'm just happy to have an excuse to repost it here.
Despite a quiet Christmas, December was probably this blog's most successful month in terms of traffic. I'll probably do some sort of most popular referrers thing at the start of Jan, but here are the stats from the most popular day of the month.
Monday December 11
Daily Totals: 618 offsite clicks | 923 page views | 431 readers
A certain level of popularity inevitably leads to more visibility in google, yahoo and msn searches so I've put a little selection together of some of the December searches that resulted in a visit to this site.
You’re in the Right Place
1. khalid tory – that’s what I thought, too. Allegations levelled by local Labour activists are worrying though.
2. Good night wishes msm – overplaying things, but I like the general sentiment.
3. Thoughtlessness and stupidity – roll up, roll up
4. I am french, living in Prague – all faiths welcome here.
5. Infinitive freedom and democracy – a fellow visionary. Can someone explain?
Not In The Right Place
1. Clapham common rent boy – then I started blogging.
2. Hazel blear mp, when was he born – I think you mean Blears. See his website.
3. Internet tv + 18 – not sure this blog is going to match your demands
4. Ipswich murder jokes – best man’s speech to plan?
5. Elephant – wtf?
Off The Wall
1. Theres votes in them thar ethnics – who’s been showing gran-dad how to use t’internet
2. Administering alcohol and rape – It was cough mixture and a bed-time story in my day
3. Robert rams george Galloway – come on Robert, reveal all.
4. Julia goldsworthy homosexual – I thought all gay Lib Dems were out and proud? Hang on a minute.
5. Cost of pruage prostitutes – Nice to have the DPM popping by. Now about those English lessons...
What's the weirdest reason why someone's turned up at your blog?
28 December 2006
Feeling charitable and safe in the knowledge that my viewpoint will have next to nil resonance in the Labour party I'm going to chuck a few home truths their way. The theme I want to discuss is renewal. I've been bamboozled by this buzzword ever since it became a mantra amongst Labour politicians and supporters. To me renewal means deep and meaningful change (usually) in response to a new environment. Therefore the talk of renewal within Labour has appeared absurd to me for several reasons.
The First Step Is Recognising There Is A Problem
Firstly and probably most importantly, I don't think that there is any real recognition of a need for change within the party. Sure, disillusioned activists have been peeling away for a whole host of reasons, but I haven't seen anything approaching a movement or alternative vision from the remaining party faithful (and I don't include John McDonnell). There are a few isolated voices at LabourHome making surprisingly sensible noises about specific areas of failure (e.g. immigration, policing) but there doesn't seem to be adequate introspection, honesty or even common sense for these calls to be taken seriously and crystallise into something meaningful. And when you think about how the likes of me will crow when Labour take on yet more Tory policies I can understand that it is psychologically painful.
I doubt that anything short of a crisis will shake the acceptance of the status quo - and when you think about how bad the May 2006 elections were for Labour it's hard to imagine what this crisis could look like.
Secondly, the word renewal has been synonymous with an emerging Brown leadership. This association is surely a triumph of hope over experience. Not only is it hard to imagine how a Brown premiership can be sold to the public as a break with the past, but just as crucially, it's hard to imagine that Brown is fit for the purpose of renewal. For a start, the tinkering and deceptiveness of the Blair reign suited Brown to a tee - why are Labour investing hope in this Caledonian changing his tartan? Even if he did make a real effort to change, I'm afraid that he won't pull it off.
The ideal script for this Tory is as follows. Brown will be crowned without any debate or challenging of his ideas. Anything more than cosmetic change will be neither desired nor sought by Brown and no new philosophy will define his term. Sure, he'll have saved up a few headline-grabbers for the tabloid readers, but I fear that they will rightly be seen as gimmicks - he has little public goodwill to rely on.
The renewal concept looks like being one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time back when Labour supporters of all hues could project their dreams onto a Brown premiership. I think this dashed promise will backfire on Brown both within his party and at large. Anyway, comments from across the political spectrum welcome as always. What do you reckon?
Hello again. I think I have a blog backlog. I have finished Geoff Mulgan's book which (after a slow start) turned out to be full of blog post potential. I also quite fancy the idea of blogging about relative poverty having just spent some time in deepest Slovakia (because obviously my mere presence in the gf's village increased the levels of poverty there). I also have some 2006 review stuff to do and there's at least a few posts on Birmingham in me.
But I'm going to ease the posts out gently as I have other things to do.
Being away for a few days without access to any media was nice, but inevitably involves a bit of catch up. Not much seems to have happened apart from England losing another match in the cricket - but the BBC doesn't cease to amaze me. Leaving to one side that the Grauniad's reporting of the BBC settlement has particularly grated, I was reviewing their current web news stories and came across this.
I *love* this extract from their crap article.
Critics say President Robert Mugabe has ruined what was one of Africa's most developed economies. As well as chronic unemployment, Zimbabwe has the world's lowest life expectancy and highest inflation rate. Mr Mugabe says he is the victim of a Western plot to bring him down because of opposition to his seizure of white-owned land.
That's right. Mugabe's legacy is up for debate at the BBC - and it's neck-and-neck at the moment. Instead, I advise readers to visit Guthrum's site for some proper Zimbabwe coverage.
Also, I know it's a slow news day, but surely they can do better than a leading political story on MP opposes hospital closures in own constituency shocker. Now, I'll make political capital as much as the next man (no really), but this attack on Hazel Blears is extremely weak. As the salutary tale of one-term Labour MP David Lock demonstrates, not standing up for the local hospital is as close as you can get to political suicide, so what is the story?
And who decided that this should be the leading UK political story and why are they in that job? Just another case of the Beeb playing ball with our rulers under the thinnest veneer of even-handedness. Rant over. It's good to be back.
23 December 2006
Carp & Turkey
Turkeys do vote for Christmas in this region. Something fishy? Yes actually, because carp is the traditional dish of the day to celebrate Christmas. In fact I saw a whole load of carp the other day being sold from a massive storage tank at the side of the street about a mile from Prague’s National Museum on Wenceslas Square.
Indeed, it is said that the best way to prepare your carp is to buy it alive and kicking. The fish is then taken home, and, quite often, kept in the bath until it has to be cooked. How would you feel about killing your Christmas dinner?
As for Christmas crackers, they haven’t caught on in Prague yet. Tesco have stocked luxury crackers this year, but they have proved so unpopular that even on 21st December they were already being sold at reduced prices – about £1.50 for 6 luxury crackers (no jokes though). The thing is it seems that nobody knows what they are for. Based on a bar-room discussion it seems our American cousins also don’t have a clue about our Christmas crackers tradition.
A friend who is an English teacher has put the knowledge gap to good use. He’s stocked up on the bargain crackers and used them as a prop for his lessons. If you think about it, if you weren't sure how to "use" crackers, it's not exactly self-evident is it?
22 December 2006
The dust hasn't yet settled, but it's obvious that Tom Stephens' life will never be the same. Revealed as a lonely and immature man and a habitual user of prostitutes, who is to blame for this man's life being dissected in the full gaze of the public? And how can Stephen Wright get the fair trial he deserves?
21 December 2006
A rabbit does his shopping every morning. One day he goes into a butchers shop. "Scuse me, have you got any lettuce" he says. "No", says the butcher '' I sell meat not lettuce". "Ok" says the rabbit and he goes.This happens every day for a week and the butcher gets really annoyed with the rabbit. "Look", he says "if you come in here and ask me for lettuce again I'll nail your ears to the floor, ok?" "Fine" says the rabbit and he leaves.The next day, the rabbit goes to the butchers shop again. The butcher sees him and starts to tell him to leave when the rabbit says "Excuse me, have you got any nails"."No" says the butcher. "Oh, in that case have you got any lettuce!".
I'm going to try to rework this gag for the 21st century blogging. Need your help.
A young blogger checks the political blogs every morning. One day he goes to Guido's site. "Scuse me, can you give me a link?" he says. "No", says Guido "I don't link small fry". "Ok" says the blogger and disappears. This happens every day for a week and Guido gets really annoyed with the blogger. "Look", he says "if you come in here and ask me for a link once more I'll.... CAN ANYONE COMPLETE THIS JOKE FOR ME?
20 December 2006
Ok, I'm heading back to Prague. On the way I will be reading the pictured book which is written by a former Blair advisor. Will try to extract the highlights for my readership. Also, as I have been away from my usual computer for the last few days I have no idea what has happened to my stats. Should be interesting.
Comment moderation is off, so police yourselves. ;-).
Uber-blogger and Conservative A-lister Iain Dale's Diary is running a poll down his sidebar where you vote for your right wing blog of the year. 20 blogs are listed. Unsurprisingly Conservative Home and Guido Fawkes are running away with it at the moment, but I've been nominated too and at least I've got off the mark for votes.
Back in September, after I'd been blogging for 2 months, Iain judged me as his 64th favourite conservative blogger, so I'm taking my inclusion in this list of 20 - which also includes unaligned and non-Tory bloggers - as a big compliment. Me, I voted for Croydonian for the range of topics and the banter. Second would be Conservative Home and finally Guido.
19 December 2006
I'm returning to Prague tomorrow after a short break here in the UK.
Blogging will be light until Christmas for a few reasons. Firstly, I have decided to try to review all the communication I have had with people I have come into contact with as a result of blogging and drop them a personal note/make good on any favours. Another reason is that I think that the loans for peerages scandal is culminating in something big. Iain Dale and Guido both have blood in their nostrils and this is one big story that I'm leaving to the experts.
I sense a few changes in my political priorities. Most importantly, I think that there is more than an outside chance of an early election under Brown. Therefore, I want to step up my activities in the area of getting overseas Tories signed up for voting. The blog medium is not particularly effective method for this, so I will be going out and meeting people more.
More generally blogging is a means to an end not an end in itself. If, for example I could felt like I could achieve more for the Conservative cause by spending the whole of April campaigning in Oscott (the most marginal Labour seat on Birmingham council) than by blogging I probably would.
18 December 2006
Birmingham Springfield is a council ward whose boundaries have recently been rejigged. Two of the sitting councillors are Lib Dems, but in May 2006 Councillor Fazal of Labour was elected. Via a Muslim friend from the ward (who did not vote for him) I understand that Councillor Fazal's command of English is pretty poor. The Lib Dems have started campaigning for May 2007 and they reveal in their latest leaflet that the Springfield Labour Party has selected Councillor Fazal's cousin as its candidate, also pointing out that the candidate used to represent Sparkhill (an area now represented by Respect) and had a reputation for doing very little casework.
Allegations of laziness and nepotism are real negative campaigning points from the Dems, but I think it will probably work. The Tories came a poor fourth in this ward in May.
In other Birmingham news, we await to learn why an application for £30m of central government funds has been rejected. The funds were to be directed towards the poorest communities in Birmingham setting up enterprise hubs where entrepeneurs could receive advice and guidance on business ventures. A spokesman from the government body (LEGI) said the Birmingham bid team would be told why the bid failed. Heat maps again?
17 December 2006
It's all very well to say that you are as young as you feel, but age is more than a number - and I'm happy to pay tribute to the relative strengths of my juniors. At their best, youngsters can exhibit optimism, bravery, flexibility and brilliance which are rarely seen in older specimens. And with all the talk of Cameron and the Tories appealing to yoof I've decided to put them in the spotlight.
Before I start, I think that the Leftie/Grauniad view of youngsters is erroneous at best. An alien from the planet Zog would conclude from that propaganda that the political youth of today are wholly alienated by previous generations, hyper-liberal on social issues, interested in the environment above all else and fairly selfless. That's not borne out by my experience. Independently minded, many feel that their ambitions are frustrated by the high cost of housing and high levels of taxes in the UK and definitely have issues with the nanny state. Generally fun-loving, most express deep concern about general standards of behaviour - more than the baby-boomers seem comfortable articulating. I certainly find a lot in common with young Conservative bloggers and want to put a few of them in the spotlight.
I'm going to start by mentioning two bloggers who in their different ways are making a great contribution to the young conservative network. First of all I must mention John Moorcraft who is doing a PhD research on Conservative Future and must have the greatest amount of Young Conservative blogroll of anyone. I'm going to call his webiste CF Links Central in my blogroll, not that his posts aren't worth checking. Next up is Mark Clarke - in his role as CF Chairman he is getting his hands dirty and enthusing and managing the troops in a way that is sure to contribute to the wider cause. Young Conservatives seem to be responding very positively to his initiatives especially the marginal seat campaign programme.
Next, I'm going to mention two 21 year olds. Thunderdragon has been on the scene from before I started and I like the way he handles a broad range of subjects in an engaging and friendly manner. Definitely one of the good guys. Fairly new to the scene Tejus Ramakrishnan moves in similar blogging circles to me and is a sharp guy - in the best sense. He is developing an interesting blogging style and he doesn't shy away from ideological positions.
Finally, I'm going to mention two teenagers. They are the next generation. The impressive historical knowledge they both demonstrate in their blogging goes way beyond a history GCSE syllabus and surely indicates their effective manipulation of the Internet as a resource. I'm feeling particularly well disposed to 17 year old Will B at the moment. Not only are his use of graphics excellent and his blog coherent, but I particularly appreciated his (unsolicited) support during the Piper debacle. Finally, I'll mention the youngest of my recommended bloggers Sam Tarran aged 15. A Midlander, Sam tells it like it is. I'm sure he has Lefty teachers and their like pulling their hair out.
Other Favourites Already Listed
Whilst on the topic, I will mention the excellent Bimingham Uni CF site (which I have listed under Midlands in my links). Also, Martine Martin's Lebwog and Chris Palmer of Political Crossroads are young bloggers. They have been on my blogroll for a while and are worth regular visits.
Which of the above do you think are the best and what have I missed? And what impact do you think that the under 30 Tories are having on the party at large? I'll sort the blogroll out once we've had a discussion.
15 December 2006
On Sunday I predicted that this week would be a new contender for Labour's worst week. It certainly is, Stanley. However, Thursday 14th December 2006 must go down as Labour's worst day of the Blair regime. Under the cover of the Diana report which reports us at great cost that her death was indeed an accident the following
bad controversial news was buried
- the first time a serving British PM has been questioned by the police
- 2,500 Post Offices to be closed
- Additional airport runways given the go-ahead
- SFO investigation into BAE dropped in the "national interest"
Did anyone notice anything on Prezza? In other news, would you Save the Pound?
14 December 2006
When Bob “retired” from blogging, he didn’t mean it. In continuing a debate over the rights and wrongs of the last few days at his site and others Bob Piper’s been blogging more than ever. This includes the comments section of his own blog. Bob does not allow me to comment on his site so the best way for me to respond to the false allegations he has made against me is here.
I Did Not Talk To The Media
One false allegation from Bob is that I ran off at the mouth to the media. As Bob gave this defiant interview with the media on Saturday, that allegation is pretty rich. Nevertheless the allegation is also untrue. I have not spoken to or corresponded with any journalist and as far as I am aware no journalist has even attempted to contact me. I have a mobile in Prague which doesn’t do international calls. So for me to have been talking to the media, they would need my mobile number. No journalist has my number. I don't need to talk to a journalist. They need only read my blog.
Shock Horror - Blogger Communicates With Other Bloggers
The other allegation Bob makes is that I whipped up other bloggers. What the hell has been doing for the best part of a week. When an argument is taking place, others will get involved. Is Bob saying other bloggers can’t think for themselves? That they would attack his viewpoint on my say so, without just cause.
What Sort Of Apology Is That?
Bob gave an unreserved apology for the offence caused. As you can see, from my postings of the last few days, I have stopped talking about the incident. If Bob was genuinely sorry about the offence caused, he would really stop blogging about the incident that started this. Some people would like to prolong this circus, I am not one of them. It is disappointing to see that the vitriolic attacks from people somewhat connected with Bob have spread to other sites particularly Guido’s and Iain Dale’s.
Outing An Anonymous Blogger
Bob has personally threatened to have me outed with press releases and assorted paraphernalia. I always had the suspicion that Bob would continue to miss the point and he has. As he stands before the standards board, talks to the paper or his party officials and sounds my name off, everyone will wonder what he’s on about. Outing a blogger who until recently got 50 readers a day. It’s hardly the stuff of David and Goliath is it? Do you think Bob's proposed breach of internet etiquette is defensible. As I have previously blogged I have plans to out myself in due course. Can’t you wait, Bob?
Note : Bob has given me permission to release an e-mail he sent to me on Sunday evening. It does not put him in a good light. In fact, I would imagine it would mark the end of his political career. I have decided today to pass this e-mail to my party headquarters to consider how or whether to release it.
Below is Bob's Technorati graph. From what Bob and others have said he had a bad time of it for the last few days. The graph should offer Bob some encouragement. If he keeps a low profile for a while and doesn't attack me, Bob's media exposure should diminish back to normal and he should have a quiet Christmas.
13 December 2006
Bob on his leaving post states that
"Praguetory ran off at the mouth to the media... and again I've had confirmation from them."
Bob, I'd ask you not to believe everything the media tells you. Let me know who made that claim, because I will get a retraction from them. I contacted no media in any way shape or form.
Bob also mentions me rallying the blogging troops. Yes I did. After the note Bob sent to me on 16.59 on Sunday afternoon the my gloves came off. Please desist in making attacks and that includes via your friends or I will take that e-mail to the media.
For the last few years in Birmingham we have had a German themed Christmas market as recommended by Paul Burgin. In the region, it is known as Birmingham's Frankfurt market. A Chinese market is planned for next year following Birmingham's twinning with the Chinese city of Guangzhou (population 10 million). A friend of mine has recently visited Frankfurt and reckoned their Christmas market was terrible so what is needed is for Frankfurt to have a Birm.. (OK, I'm sure you've get the picture).
On the same theme I was walking around Old Town Square in Prague today where they have an excellent Christmas fair (much better than previous efforts I can recall). I wish I had brought a camera out with me. I was particularly impressed with how much they had put on for kids. I noticed a little collection for this charity. Set up by a French woman who has lived in Prague for over a decade, the charity is all about making chidren's hospitals more welcoming and homely so as to ameliorate the psychological impact of being separated from their parents. Given the spartan nature of many Czech hospitals, I think this is an excellent project. They have achieved some lovely results. I bet it makes the hospital buildings a nicer place for the staff to work, too. I think I prefer small charities. Or am I being stupid to say that?
Also, just went to see Borat. It had its moments, but put it like this I'm glad I didn't pay more than 50 crowns (£1.25).
12 December 2006
I'm Backing Cameron
Listen to this interview and tell me Cameron won't beat Brown at the next election. Clarifies the key principles of the next Government. Societal solutions not state solutions, trusting public sector professionals and local rather than regional power. Excellent.
Let's Play Snap
As detailed on previous posts, criticism of Piper et al included several policemen, many BME people, Bob's boss, the Head Of Racial Equality in Bob's region and ordinary members of the public across the political spectrum. So widespread was the condemnation that it would be next to impossible to catalogue.
The similarities between my objections to the images used by Piper and those of the people who forced Bob to take his pictures down after two days of defiance are uncanny.
Bill Thomas, the Labour leader of Sandwell Council said
"Bob has overstepped the mark"
"Bob Piper has surely crossed the line"
Dr Derrick Campbell, chief executive of Race Equality Sandwell, said:
"It's a very offensive image to black people. I just do not understand what this image is doing on his website."
My remarks were less strong –
"I found them (the images) to be offensive and insulting"
Maybe I can do them for copyright. Just to go over things, here was the plan.
Give Bob tap on the shoulder so that he takes the image off his site before too many people are offended.
There was no plan B. Plan A fails and this story was always going to go big. The headlines write themselves as anyone who has visited Guido's place shows. Bob got away with a similar stunt before, but maybe he didn't realise that the blogosphere and the political environment has changed.
Where We're At
With things in the MSM what I or practically any other blogger posts is of negligible relevance to where this debate goes from here. That direction will be shaped by the media, bureaucrats, politicians and to a lesser extent Piper.
Everyone has their own view of what is not offensive - indeed it can change over time. Personally I've always liked the expression that every day has its own truth. Some are more tolerant than others. I understand. People are people. As a political tool I found and still find the combination of the image and the slurs offensive.
I have been trumpeted as a hero by the Tory blogosphere. See above for why that is misleading. The kind of thing I want to take credit for are when me and a cross-party team of bloggers forced Labour to pay a young film-maker a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
To Post Or Not To Post That Is The Question
It is very tempting to continue to post stuff that I keep getting sent/alerted to (and it is interesting), but I will likely conclude that I have better things to do -see above on irrelevance. Now it doesn't even matter if I continue to be hounded for taking a position identical to the people Bob listened to in the end.
A Word Of Advice
As Bob has never taken my advice before now, I'll give him some bad advice. When you're in a hole keep digging.
This Time I Mean It
No more Minstrel Show. Next act please?
11 December 2006
Internet TV is undoubtedly the future. I for one watch more of it than real TV (might be do with where I live). My staple is the excellent political website 18 Doughty Street. One outstanding feature of it is the interactivity so you can share your comments and questions by text, mail, MSN or even on skype (that's my preference). I think that the level of debate has had a positive effect and will continue to do so. Soundbite politicians don't survive a visit to Doughty Street. Tonight are some of my favourite presenters and bloggers.
Most of all I recommend the 9pm VOX politics. It's a case of full house as my blogroll links to every one of the four people who will be in the studio. The maestro Iain Dale will be hosting the discussion.
Going from right to left, next is the charismatic Stephen Tall. This young Lib Dem is in his 20s but has around 7 years council experience behind him already. One for the future and always with many an original viewpoint.
Tonight also features the magnificent Paul Burgin of Mars Hill whose thoughtfulness and decency shine through. Paul's series of blogging interviews is one of the most interesting reads in the political blogosphere.
Finally, of course is the delectable Kerron Cross. He really puts himself into his blog and his site is brilliantly entertaining - he's Labour's number one in Iain Dale's list. I'm sure there'll be covering some interest topics so I'll be tuning in and recommend you do too.
Also, on 18 Doughty Street are archived interviews. The one-to-one with Iain Dale and Peter Hennessy on the homepage is one of the best interviews I have seen in an age. That man Hennessy should teach the art of conversation.
10 December 2006
More on the quality of the man. Look at this.
No further words from me are required.
For myself, I owe my beautiful girlfriend more than a bunch of flowers for her patience. I am off out for a cool beer and I will be posting infrequently over the next few days.
Reacquainting Myself With Wales
In my youth I spent a fair amount of leisure time in Wales in the mountains and on the beaches. I love Wales as a place to visit. Blamerbell Briefs is I believe the only Welsh blogger in my links. You've probably heard of Labour Watch. Me too, so my interest was naturally piqued by the link in the sidebar for British Nationalists In Wales Watch. As I'm a bit slow in the morning and their name is a bit of a mouthful, I wasn't at all sure what to expect. It was very interesting.
5 Separations & A Merger
No, it's not a sequel to four weddings and a funeral. As someone once said a picture can tell a thousand words. I hope the following graphic fairly summarises the objectives of the website/campaign.
In order to provide more detail this post on Who are the British Nationalists sets out more clearly who they are against. Basically, they stand in opposition to Labour, Lib Dems, Conservatives and the BNP with a view to forming 6 new nation states. Just four comments are made to the post - sufficient to hint at the ridiculous impracticalities of the campaign.
I See A Flaw In Your Cunning Plan
This is without doubt the most ridiculous and impractical political campaign I have ever seen. Prizes for pointing out the most ridiculous part of this campaign or trumping this campaign with a more ridiculous one. Just to get the ball rolling, I'd like to ask how the campaign would respond to claims from certain territorial Muslims of Leytonstone.
09 December 2006
At a Slovak friend's house the other day, I was taking a look through the CD collection. He used to be in a rock band himself. I spied Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Moody Blues, The Move & Slade. The common denominator of all these bands are their Birmingham links. Birmingham Tories are putting their ideas together for the upcoming Council elections. I favour a Birmingham music museum.
08 December 2006
Last night we went to the "up and coming" area of Nusle for a meal. Seems like about half the restaurants round there are Chinese, but the gf doesn’t really enjoy eating Chinese in Prague. A lot of the grocery stores in Prague are run by Vietnamese Czechs. There’s an interesting story about how a significant number of Vietnamese ended up settling in Prague, but that’s for another time. By coincidence, when I got home and was going through some of the many leaflets I picked up at Conservative Conference I found one for a Chinese Conservatives event hosted by the cerebral Dominic Grieve MP. Thinking back to conference, I don’t recall seeing anyone of Oriental extraction at conference, but then again I wasn’t looking.
Having a Chinese friend who works at the BBC’s Chinese World Service, a cousin who has recently been an English teacher in Shanghai and a close friend in manufacturing who regularly travels to China on business has helped to foster in me a certain interest (I wouldn’t go as far as fascination) in Chinese culture and current affairs. I don’t think I am atypical of the British public in this respect.
The 2005 purchase of Rover by Nanjing (China’s oldest carmaking firm) was a milestone in the ever-strengthening ties between Birmingham and China. With considerable imagination and flair Birmingham council leader, Conservative Mike Whitby (pictured this week with the mayor of Guangzhou) has been working hard to strengthen these links. On this theme, a tangible achievement was secured this week as Birmingham was formally twinned with the Chinese city of Guangzhou. This report on the Chinese visit to Birmingham was very favourable. Well done, Mike.
On the subject of Birmingham, this is a real pity (not).
06 December 2006
I could string a sentence together about the following MEPs.
But can you describe or even name a single Labour MEP? I can't. If you can, please go to comments and give us the benefit of your insights about them. Swearing will not be censured or censored.
Whilst on the topic, I have to recommend a couple of recent posts. Chris Palmer posts on his trip to Brussels with his fellow Reinstate Roger campaigners. Particularly liked this extract -
"Truly, the European Union and Parliament is the ultimate bureaucracy. Fat unaccountable MEPs wining and dining on extravagant taxpayers funded expense accounts, far away from the glare of the media spotlight and safe and secluded in the sanctity of their black deathstar-like Parliament; all so very distant from the people they are supposedly meant to be representing. I even liked the way that offices for Turkish MEPs and representatives had been built before the country is even a member of the EU – almost as if someone had already made a decision that Turkey will be a member despite negotiations supposedly taking place and a vote sometime soon… They call it democracy."
His post ends enigmatically.
Institutional Financial Weaknesses
On the theme of EU waste, former EU finance chief Marta Andreasen (the first qualified accountant to be appointed CFO of the EU) recently spoke at the Institute Of Chartered Accountants in Birmingham. Normally, I find his posts overlong (sorry Nigel), but I recommend reading every word of this post by Nigel Hastilow. I am sure you will agree that Marta has been treated dreadfully by the EU for telling the truth / doing her job.
By the way, when you consider that she was authorising and overseeing billions of euros of expenditure her £85,000-a-year salary appears extraordinarily low. Just another indicator of the EU's attitude to our money imho.
Big hat tip Political Crossroads and Nigel Hastilow - the view north of Watford
05 December 2006
Blogging Is A Game We Make The Rules
I had a maths teacher who once taught me the acronym M I A G W M T R. Other pearls of wisdom that he imparted included why walk, when you can run?
Of course, I have taken no notice of the suggestions for a voluntary code for bloggers as suggested by some tool working for the Preth Complainths Commithun. The blogger known as disillusioned and bored expresses my sentiments succinctly enough. For the record, I have added one of his suggested tags to my blog.
Let me repeat, blogging is a game, we make the rules. Here are mine.
1. No profanities on obituaries
2. I will never refer to my professional life
3. I may on a whim amend or remove posts or comments to them without explanation
4. Anon bloggers will generally receive less respect.
5. For your guidance I may fail to reply to your comment for any one or combination of the following reasons - rudeness, time, boredom, acute embarassment, forgetfulness
6. The purpose of this blog is a moving feast. Updates will not be provided
7. All rules are subject to change. Updates will not be provided
04 December 2006
House of Lords reform. People talk about this one a lot. Here are my thoughts - not checked if anyone has come to the same conclusion.
1. It's good having the House of Lords because it adds value. Bills amended by the Lords generally end up better than if they hadn't been.
2. An appointed Lords is undemocratic.
3. A directly elected Lords would be too like the Commons and therefore lose its value.
4. A mixture of the two would satisfy no-one, and the elected peers might consider themselves more legitimate than the appointed ones.
So what to do? Ensure that peers have been democratically elected at some point, but make the Lords arms-length and different enough to the Commons so that it continues to add value.
You could do this by giving MPs the opportunity to leave the Commons and sit in the Lords, subject to the following provisos:
1. An MP would need to have served at least six years.
2. A peer would serve one term of somewhere between ten and twenty years. (I'm not sure of the turnover of MPs - this would need to be worked out to ensure that the Lords wasn't too big or too small).
3. Anything that would disqualify you from being an MP would also disqualify you from being a peer (except being a peer).
1. Peers would have been democratically elected and re-elected.
2. Peers would have a degree of experience and seniority appropriate to the role.
3. Experienced MPs who still have a lot to give, but are less willing/able to deal with the demands of being an MP, would still be able to contribute. This would benefit both the MP and his/her constituents.
4. The Commons would have less dead wood.
5. Because it wouldn't be possible to seek re-election, peers would be far less tied to the party line and the value-add of the Lords should be preserved.
1. It still might be too like the Commons.
2. It would 100% consist of politicians, whereas some of the most useful current contributions are made by non-politicians.
IMR (not PT)
02 December 2006
The Dutch general elections don't appear to have got much coverage on the UK-oriented blogs, but PT's entries often have a bit more of an international slant, so I thought I'd give it a go.
The Netherlands had a coalition government headed by Jan Peter Balkenende (oft mocked in the press due to his resemblance to Harry Potter) of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDA). They were in with a couple of liberal parties: the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and Democrats 66 (D66). D66 pulled out of the coalition, which precipitated a general election following a short period of CDA-VVD minority government.
Balkenende survived the election well, losing only 3 seats in the more powerful Second Chamber (equivalent to the Commons) and ending up with 41 (out of a total of 150).
The other old coalition partners didn't fare so well: VVD went from 28 to 22 and D66 were halved: 6 to 3.
Without a doubt, the biggest winners were the Socialist Party (SP), which went from 9 to 25. The SP are a 'real' left-wing party, the centre-left one being the Labour Party (PvdA), who took a bit of a kicking and dropped 9 to 33.
The other big winners were the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV), who went from 0 to 9 seats.
Here are the results in full:
Party (Party Code) / Seats (change)
Christian Democrats (CDA) / 41 (-3)
Labour (PvdA) / 33 (-9)
Socialist (SP) / 25 (+16)
Freedom and Democracy (VVD) / 22 (-6)
Freedom (PVV) / 9 (+9)
GreenLeft (GL) / 7 (-1)
Christian Union (CU) / 6 (+3)
Democrats 66 (D66) / 3 (-3)
Animals (PvdD) / 2 (+2)
Reformed (SGP) / 2 (0)
(And yes, there really is an animal rights party with two seats now, the first time I believe it's happened in Europe.)
So what are the Dutch electorate up to? It seems that Balkenende wasn't blamed for the collapse of the coalition; D66, who walked out, are seen as the culprits. Other than that, things seem to have got a bit more polarised, with both left- and right-wing parties gaining at the expense of centre-left and liberal ones.
To form a government, you need 76 seats. That means at least three parties need to form a coalition. There hasn't been a coalition government without the largest party since about 1982, so it's very likely that the CDA will feature, and Balkenende will be PM again.
So what will the coalition look like? Well, the CDA would ideally want to avoid Labour and the Socialists, so they could go with their old partners, the VVD. This would give them 63, so they'd need to pick up another 13. The VVD wouldn't want to sit with PVV, but teaming up with both GreenLeft and Christian Union would do it. This would give a four-party coalition with a majority of one. This to me seems too likely to fracture, but the only other non-Labour/non-Socialist combos are even worse.
I think that the most likely outcome is a German-style 'grand coalition' of the CDA+Labour (=74), with one other minor party. Any of D66, Animals or Reformed would tip it over 75, but I think all are unlikely. You'd want a more comfortable majority than 76 or 77 in case of rebels. Plus the CDA won't want to team up with coalition-wreckers D66 again (and vice versa probably), Reformed don't do coalitions, and neither the CDA nor Labour's core vote would take them seriously if they went with a load of animal libbos.
Moving up, CU (=80) and GL (=81) are possibles, likely to be preferred by CDA and Labour respectively. However, I'm not sure if Labour would sit with CU if they make an issue of areas such as abortion.
Moving further up, there's no chance Labour would sit with PVV, and the VVD would be needlessly large.
Therefore, my money's on a CDA+Labour+CU/GL coalition, with GL more likely than CU.
IMR (not PT)
01 December 2006
Thought I'd gone for good didn't you..?
In PT's absence, I'll be blogging on here for the next couple of days. You may remember last time that I talked about celestial vandalism and Freemasonry. This time, topics are likely to include House of Lords reform and supermarkets. Stay tuned...
P.S. Is it me, or has Radio 4's Today programme completely given up on announcing the start of Yesterday in Parliament on time?
When Birmingham Northfield swings, it really swings! Located in south-west Birmingham and home of the defunct Rover site and close to the Cadbury HQ, the electorate’s voting patterns are volatile. In 1979, when Thatcher swept to power on an overall swing of 5.2%, one of the most stunning successes was in Birmingham Northfield where Jocelyn Cadbury overturned a 10,597 Labour majority with a 10.2% swing. Similarly, when Labour secured its victory in 1997 on an overall swing of 10.2%, Richard Burden increased the Labour majority to 11,443 from 630 on a 14% swing.
Looking forward to the next general election, this seat is Conservative target number 197 and we will need a 10.4% swing to win it again. On the back of an excellent local campaign in the May local elections this year here are the simply stunning results in the four wards of Birmingham Northfield.
- Kings Norton Longbridge
Con - 2344 ..... 2021
Lab - 1822 ..... 1818
- Northfield Weoley
Con - 2674 ... 2207
Lab - 1883 ... 1873
Incredibly, the 9,246 Tory votes at local level in this constituency exceed the number cast in the last General Election and Labour’s vote is less than half what they received at the General Election. If replicated – admittedly highly unlikely – at the next GE, this would be a 15.6% swing enough to secure the seat easily. Our activists are ready. Let's hope we get an appealing candidate, because this seat is in range.