Did anyone have a go at the Lords Questionnaire?
Q1. Lord Lucan (pictured left) is famous for going missing, but Lord Levy has managed 121 foreign trips as Blair's special envoy to the Middle East and Kazakhstan.
Q2. Lord Levy was reported by the Daily Mail for his using a call girl. Although, I'm sure they meant Lord Lambton (pictured right)
Q3. "They work for you" is a website monitoring the political records of the UK's politicians. As Lord Levy's record shows, "They do not work for you" would be a better name in his case. Lord Levy gave his maiden speech in 1997 - he has never contributed to a Parliamentary debate.
Q4. Lord Levy is subject to a police investigation. Lord Lucan was at one time, but was never arrested in connection with the matter.
Q5. This picture is a touching reminder of the close relationship Lord Levy enjoys with Tony Blair.
How did you do in the quiz?
31 January 2007
Did anyone have a go at the Lords Questionnaire?
My wedding date is confirmed. It's Saturday 8th September at St Elizabeth's Cathedral (pictured) which is in the centre of the historic town of Kosice. Next things on the to-do list is to call the British embassy in Slovakia, pick a reception venue, buy insurance, work out invites etc etc. Between 18 August and 20 October there will be four weddings amongst our closest family and friends. A combined stag do is on the cards.
I've decided to blog lightly for the next two weeks or so - high quality posts only and less blogging about blogging (other than to discuss poll results).
30 January 2007
Anyone for a spot of quizzage?
Fill the gaps with the following Lords - Lampton Lucan Levy
< INSERT LORD > is famous for going missing
< INSERT LORD > was reported by the Mail for his adultery and use of call-girls
< INSERT LORD > has never spoken in a Parliamentary debate
< INSERT LORD > has been subject to a police investigation and arrested more than once in connection with that investigation.
< INSERT LORD > is a close friend of the current PM.
Getting embarassing yet, Mr Blair?
Of course, I have updated my sleazewatch sidebar. More here from Labour's media arm Pic hat-tip Beau Bo D'Or.
2008 & 2010 Tory Conference
Great news. THE STIRRER has broken the news that an official announcement is due about the Tory Conference coming to Birmingham in 2008 (and 2010). If these showcase events do come to Brum, it is great opportunity and I would love the chance to show Tories from all over the country how well we host events. Apparently, it's been behind-the-scenes work of Mike Whitby (Birmingham's Tory council leader) and Neil Rami (of Marketing Birmingham) with Francis Maude that has swung things. I'm pretty sure that this excellent Xmas event attended by Francis did the city's chances no harm at all.
Birmingham & The Tories
Considering Birmingham's NEC supercasino bid didn't make it to the last eight, I have to admit that Manchester winning the prize added insult to injury. However, these snubs to Birmingham serve to contrast Labour with the Tory dedication to the region. Yesterday, Cameron's speech on multi-culturalism was given in the troubled district of Lozells and I understand that he will be visiting Birmingham again in March. Also, in the May elections we will win overall control of Solihull and overtake Labour in Birmingham as the party with the largest representation on the council.
Donation Number 1
The ancient non-domicile tax rule, can allow foreign business people living in Britain to avoid paying income or CGT on their earnings abroad by claiming that the UK is their second home. At the time of multi-billionaire Lakshmi Mittal’s 2002 donation of £125,000 to Labour he had lived in the UK with his family for seven years and claimed this status throughout that time. In 1997 Labour came to power claiming it would close the non-domicile "loophole".
In a letter that disgraced the UK (and whose contents Downing Street refused to disclose) Tony Blair wrote a forceful letter to the Romanian Prime Minister that helped Mittal secure a £300m steel company. In the letter, Blair stated that Mittal’s company is British. In fact, Mittal's parent company LNM Holdings is based in a Caribbean tax haven - the Dutch Antilles. Blair also got his facts wrong when he addressed MPs. Note – I could go on to describe the cheap loans organised at the British taxpayer’s expense. The whole saga was a disgrace.
The recent £2m donation by Mittal which brings the running total up to £4m in the last 3 years is posited as one of the major reasons for Gordon’s recent visit to India. The Labour Party was badly underpaid for their generosity the first time around, but will there be new favours for Mittal on the back of this financial lifeline? Whatever the case, it brings British democracy into disrepute - and is a case in point for why political funding needs reform. Meanwhile, an embattled Luke Akehurst (not the spoof!) suggests Mittal deserves a lordship.
In other news, earlier this week, the Czech Finance Ministry
cancelled a $110m fine on Mittal Steel for price-fixing.
29 January 2007
Czech Government Forms
After seven months and two failed attempts, the right-wing ODS party have finally formed a coalition government with the Greens and some liberals due to some pre-arranged abstentions in the crucial confidence vote from the Socialists. Relations between the new PM - the ODS’s Mirek Topolanek - and President Klaus are very poor and Klaus’s reputation has been tarnished by the tortuous saga. Anyway, we will start having some Czech political news. Hurrah.
Merkel In Prague!
On that theme, readers may be interested to know that on Friday, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Prague for four hours of meetings to push a new version of the EU constitution. My understanding is that the new version of the constitution remains a good door-stop.
Earlier last week, Mirek Topolanek appointed chief euro-sceptic MEP Jan Zahradil as his special envoy for the EU constitution during Germany’s upcoming EU presidency. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Mr Zahradil’s dislike of the EU is visceral, but he does make Bill Cash look like a Europhile. 75% of Czech MEPs voted against the constitution and Czechs don’t appreciate Germans giving orders. The Germans seem determined to force EU issues centre-stage during their presidency. What is Merkel playing at?
It is being reported in the Czech press that Merkel did indeed run into a big no. Interesting that it was reported that she wouldn't meet Cameron when he recently visited Germany because of his policy to leave the EPP. Klaus and Topolanek appear far more euro-sceptic than Dave. Also, the Socialists are calling Topolanek's appointment of Zahradil "provocative". I can see what they mean *grins*.
Pretty good for the Tories, too. The results from these figures would translate into an 18.5% lead nationally. I can't wait until May. (Rubs Hands)
Libs withdraw and Labour's vote still halves!
Cumbria county - Brampton and Gilsland: Con 717, Lab 363, BNP 88. (May 2005: Con 1370, Lab 809, Lib Dem 689). Con hold. Swing 5.4% Lab to Con.
First Conservative councillor since the authority was created in 1974. 10% swing to Tories since May 2006!
Nottinghamshire county - Hucknall: Con 1597, Lab 1554, Lib Dem 1007, Ukip 413, Green 350. (May 2006: Three seats Lab 6619, 6576, 6566, Con 4278, 4125, 3824, Green 1540, 1320, 1149, Ind 854, 742). Con gain from Lab. Swing 10.2% Lab to Con.
Labour's share of the vote falls from 27% to 11% in 2 years
West Oxfordshire district - Witney Central: Con 417, Lib Dem 207, Lab 87, Green 68. (June 2004: Con 524, Lab 339, Lib Dem 217, Green 142). Con hold. Swing 0.9% Lib Dem to Con.
I was doing some tagging last night and realised that I should do more about the Conservatives. I've got a few ideas up my sleeve. Anyway, I've just set up a new poll, which I will run for a while. How long have you been visiting political websites? My story goes something like this.
Remember Labour's worst week in late April 2005. Yep - the Clarke, Prescott, Hewitt triple which preceded Labour getting a drubbing in the local elections. Well, at about that time I was thinking of setting up a top of the sleaze charts to keep track all the Labour scandals. In the course of my research, I stumbled across Iain Dale's site, discovered that other people felt the same (and were writing the Little Red Book Of New Labour Sleaze). Well, that's basically how I got hooked. What's your story?
28 January 2007
Matthew Sinclair who writes the excellent Sinclair's Musings is the best Young Conservative blogger according to my readership - he was the first to accumulate 50 reader votes. Matthew recently graduated from the LSE with an MSC in Economic History (Research). The content of Matthew's blog can be fairly hevayweight, but is always very readable.
Although fiercely partisan (good), Matthew is definitely his own man and can be relied upon to bring an original perspective to the political issues of the day. I urge my readership to go over to his place, take a look and leave a comment.
It was a two-horse race as the front-runners secured 70% of the votes cast. So congrats to Matthew's nearest challenger, Will Burstow who reached 50 votes shortly after Matthew. Another recommended read. PS - I've decided on a new poll.
Dear Mr Prague Tory
Booking Ref : QZQ1CG
Increase to Air Passenger Duty(APD)
The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, recently announced an increase in Air Passenger Duty (APD) on all flights leaving from UK airports. As a result tax on short-haul flights departing from the UK will rise from £5 to £10 per person (or local currency equivalent). This means for domestic flights passengers will be forced to pay £20 in tax on a return flight.
This tax increase will apply to all passengers traveling on or after 1st February 2007.
As you have booked to travel on or after 1st February 2007 and booked before 9th December 2006, we are contacting you to advise that regrettably we need to collect the additional tax from you. This tax will be debited from the card that was provided at the time of booking which will save you time, as you will not have to make the payment yourself.
Bookings that were made on or after 9th December 2006 already include the increased tax, and there is nothing further to pay.
bmibaby strongly believe that the increase in APD places an unfair burden on air travellers and the extra money collected by the Government should be reinvested into the environmental initiatives that it was created to fund.
Unfortunately this situation is beyond our control and we have no choice but to implement the tax increase. bmibaby therefore apologise for the need to recover the additional tax.
Important note: bmibaby are committed to offering long term low fares and in order to continue doing this we are unfortunately unable to absorb the additional tax that the Government have imposed on all of us.
Please note in order to travel this additional tax must be paid or it will result in you not being allowed to board your flight. Click here to view the terms and conditions. We appreciate your support at this time and acknowledge that this news will not be received favourably by you and has definitely not been supported by bmibaby. It is with great regret that we have to send this email to you.
bmibaby were one of the airlines that campaigned heavily against the rise in tax and are reluctant in having to contact you to ask for the additional tax.
Thank you for your understanding and we hope you enjoy your flight with bmibaby.
bmibaby Managing Director
This hit my junk mail, so I imagine many people will pitch up at the airport expecting to fly, but not having paid the amount in full. Chaos will result. More here
PS I'll stop the YC poll when somebody hits 50 votes.
25 January 2007
READ THIS BOOK.
It's written by the UK's most popular police blogger. He likes law enforcement and nicking bad 'uns. He doesn't like the Home Office or Grauniad-reading muesli-eating types much, but as he says in his book, he doesn't get much in the way of negative or contradictory feedback in his comments or email inbox. Before opining on UK policing, I recommend you visit his site or buy his book. Looks like the snow has stopped falling, so hopefully no blogging over the next few days. Somebody else is moderating comments for me.
24 January 2007
When Tony Blair
resigns announces his departure we will be holding a celebration in a Prague bar. The bar owner thought it was a great idea as long as we were only celebrating Blair's departure and not his successor's arrival. Of course I will publicise the event here cometh the hour. In other news, it's been snowing heavily here. Yesterday there were 720 car accidents in the Czech Republic. I'll be working from home, today.
23 January 2007
Do you ever get a eureka moment? Last Friday Newsnight ran a story about an offensive e-mail sent by a Conservative activist.
On Friday the BBC gave that "story" higher billing and more coverage than the Ruth Turner arrest - a story of international significance.
Well, I've just realised that I've been sitting on a similarly offensive email from a well-known Labour councillor. Surely it must be in the public interest for me to make it available. Let's judge the Beeb by actions not words. I would like to give Michael Crick and Newsnight a chance to show that they are not as biased as everybody thinks.
I would also be happy to discuss the contents of the email with William Thomas OBE, the Labour leader of Sandwell council. Anyway, I've got some work to get on with. Could all media outlets please provide contact details in my comments?
Note - Which part of this posting did Bob Piper not understand?
Today, I am happy to be the guest blogger at the excellent Birmingham University Conservative Future blog. I thought it would be appropriate to do a brief post there on why young voters are Natural Tories.
On this theme here are few statistics to digest
- Young voters are the more likely than any other age group to feel that the tax burden is too high.
- Average student debt on graduation has increased from £2,212 in 1992 to £13,501 in 2005 and is predicted to reach £20,000 for entrants in 2005
- Am overwhelming majority of young people in the UK aspire to live abroad at some point.
- In spite of over a £1bn being spent to combat it school truancy figures are breaking new records.
To summarise, there is a growing divergence between youngsters who opt in and opt out of the education system. But even those who stay in the system must overcome great challenges. New graduates face massive and growing debt burden, spiralling living costs and high marginal taxes at low to medium income levels mean that it is a diminishing number of young workers who can actually realise the most basic and common aspiration of a decent job and full financial independence.
What Would This Tory Do?
Problem 1 - Housing Shortage
a) Managed Immigration and Deportation Of Illegal Aliens - this should be the usual state of affairs, but given this government's woeful record it would be a new policy.
b) Land Value Tax - this is known as land reform and encourages the efficient use of land. Where it has occurred (e.g. Ireland) there has been a significant rise in property ownership which is significantly correlated with social cohesion and lower crime levels. The quid pro quo is a reduction in other property taxes such as council tax.
c) Tax On Unused/Derelict Buildings - A key measure taken by Giuliani that helped to transform New York for the better.
d) A bonfire of building and planning regulations
Problem 2 - Student Debt
a) The target of 50% of the population going to university is arbitrary and misguided (there are not that many graduate jobs and at the other end of the spectrum the retirement age keeps being raised to support the public finances). Bin the target and let's get more youngsters working earlier.
b) The government should be more selective in which type of university courses receive central funding. I would be in favour of phasing in a voucher system based on the benefit to society of various courses.
c) Universities should be further exposed to market pressures. I hope that this would lead to innovative market solutions in the education market such as accelerated degree programmes/weekend courses/employer partnerships etc.
Problem 3 - Attacking Disincentives To Work
a) Simplify the range of available benefits. For example make no distinction between disability and unemployment benefits.
b) Combine the tax and benefits system so that marginal tax rates for low-paid workers are never excessive.
c) Set up a personal social fund so that you are rewarded for staying in the system.
d) Unemployment benefits should be a social insurance not a permanent featherbed. Enforce a lifetime upper limit on the receipt of benefits.
e) The black economy destroys legitimate businesses. Crack down on it.
Problem 4 - The Underclass
a) 20% of all school-leavers are illiterate. This is a scandal. A mixture of phonics techniques, punishing the parents of truants and intensive remedial teaching (if necessary during school holidays) for laggards should rectify this.
b) Provide facilities and free heroin for registered heroin addicts, thus pulling the rug out from dealers' incentive to get people hooked.
c) Crack and heroin dealing should be tried as attempted or actual murderers in the courts.
d) Consider the impact of families of all legislation. In particular, ensure the tax system discriminates to promote two-parent families.
e) Encourage small voluntary group initiatives in the community and provide support to help them roll out best practice initiatives.
That's all for now. Feel free to critique. What would you do to help young Brits thrive?
21 January 2007
The last time I saw my some time Russian teacher, he told me that he was basing a character in his book on me. An arrogant Western chess player was the character. I admit I was quite flattered. Well I just got a message from him today.
"Chess tonight or tomorrow in shakes? you could play against a compatriot of yours too if you feel like" and then a more urgent one.
"I haven't written my novel. I abandoned it and started afresh, using some of its material. The new novel should be about chess, school violence, chess, street violence, chess, nationalism, chess, criminals, chess, family violence...I have about 90 pages so far...But I cannot return it to the chess theme"
Of course I'll be meeting him at a bar on Tuesday to play chess as he is a very interesting person, a talented writer and a decent chess player. I'll also be speaking to the bar owner (who is an occasional reader of this blog - he tells me) about making provisional arrangements for a big party to celebrate the Blairs' departure. I've already agreed to celebrate in style with some fellow Tories in Prague - it seems appropriate to start making detailed plans.
The diagram is a beautifully elegant, but relatively simple White to play and mate in 4. Who can tell me the last move in the sequence?
Hat Tip Thunderdragon
Police Hack 10 Downing Street
As reported in the Telegraph today, the police needed to hack into 10 Downing Street IT systems due to the lack of Labour Party co-operation with the "cash for peerages" investigation. It hardly needs to be said that this development pours petrol on the raging inferno.
Front Row Seats
Under the heading SLEAZEWATCH I've given prominence on my sidebar to links where you can keep abreast of the biggest story of the year. Google news and Blogger Search searches on Ruth Turner now exceed 500 in both cases, so Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale should be your first ports of call.
You'll find nothing at Labour Home or its mainstream media arm. When you think of the pronouncements of Jowell (who then back-pedalled) and Blunkett, you get the impression of favours being called in. But Blair's power appears to be evaporating fast.
In the comments please advise me of any further information sources and for general amusement please feel free to point at any remaining Labour holdouts.
روت ترنر (Ruth Turner)، یکی از مشاوران نزدیک به تونی بلر، نخست وزیر بریتانیا، دیروز (جمعه – ۱۹ ژانوی
Ruth Turner)，被警方以扭曲 司法及涉入爵位醜聞案，清晨在自宅被逮捕；特納是英國政府第一個因爵位醜聞被逮捕的 公務員，由於她是布萊爾的重要親信，她的被逮顯示全案有向上升高趨勢。
Bà Ruth Turner Theo phát ngôn viên chính thức của ông Blair, bà Ruth Turner - Giám đốc các quan hệ của chính phủ tại văn phòng Thủ tướng - đã bị bắt tại nhà riêng ở London. Tuy nhiên, bà Turner đã tạm được tại ngoại sau khi nộp tiền bảo ...
Londres.- La Policía británica detuvo hoy a la colaboradora del primer ministro Tony Blair, Ruth Turner, por.
LONDRES (AP) - La police britannique a arrêté vendredi une collaboratrice du Premier ministre Tony Blair dans le cadre de son enquête sur l'attribution présumée de titres honorifiques en échange de prêts secrets aux partis politiques.
I think I caught the drift of the last two. *Grins*
20 January 2007
Yesterday, a day when news of national and international significance broke, the BBC's Newsnight programme devoted more time to an obscure story on a Conservative councillor. On the main news they devoted more time to wind than Ruth Turner and on the BBC website Nick Robinson gave this turgid response titled "range of possibilities" to the breaking news.
They spent more energy on the recent Blears and Kelly storms in teacups than this massive new development where a senior Blair aide has been arrested in connection with an allegation of perverting the course of justice - a crime which has a maximum punishment of a life sentence. I call it soft-pedalling and doing it breaches the trust with the license fee payer.
The government has lurched from one crisis to another brassing it out with the support of a pliant BBC. If you are upset with the quality of their coverage and reporting, complaining to the BBC is easy.
Saturday morning and in respect of the arrest the BBC's website leads with Labour anger. They are feeding us pure and unadulterated obfuscation.
19 January 2007
Today's news of Ruth Turner's arrest is moving the political betting market. Read my lips. Today, Friday 19 January a dawn raid was carried out by police to arrest a senior Labour party official concerning cash for honours and perverting the course of justice.
It's pretty clear it's serious Scrap that. What I think is that I've seen enough. Whether the Old Bill secures convictions is now beside the point. Of course, not all Labour party members are hanging their heads in shame about this news. These people are known as hold outs.
Definition of a holdout
a refusal to come to terms in the hope of obtaining a better deal
Of course, Blair is a hold out.
"Ruth Turner is a person of the highest integrity for whom I have great regard and in whom I have complete confidence"
Is that really what the PM should be saying about someone who has just been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice? I wander whether loyal Labour bloggers will be joining him to man the barricades?
The Coin Recognition Industry
I have a good friend who works in the coin recognition industry. It’s a fascinating one, because as you can imagine the risk of fraud needs to be taken into account very carefully. With the available technology you can minimize fraud almost 100% by tightening up on all parameters, but this leads to the unfortunate risk of false negative readings (i.e. the rejection of legal tender) leading to lower sales etc. Purchasers of coin recognition technology need to balance the risks when deciding what technology to apply.
In public places, coin fraud is particularly common. For example, London Underground choose the more sensitive the coin recognition tolerance systems. We’ve all had a valid coin rejected there, haven’t we? On the other hand in offices and private clubs attempts at fraud are less likely so the coin acceptance systems are less stringent.
You see a similar thing with blogs. More popular blogs are at greater risk from fraudulent comments because those who oppose the blog author’s agenda want to
- reach a large audience
- reduce the influence of the author &
- can feel more anonymous on a crowded blog
That’s why most successful blog owners use moderation or other screening techniques to retain the quality and authenticity of their blogs. As for the purchasers of coin recognition technology, the moderating policy has pros and cons. Upsetting genuine visitors is one of the cons. Nevertheless, the need to take sanctions is undoubtedly a sign of success.
Therefore, as a signing of my growing influence in the blogosphere, it is with pleasure that I announce that today I have decided to ban the first person from my blog. People understand that every blog author has an agenda. Mine is that I’m a Tory, pretty obvious I’d have thought. As I am not an IT geek, I don’t want to get drawn into some inane debate about tags, trackbacks and blogging ethics. Most of my readers like my blogging rules. Here they are. QED.
It's well documented that most of the extra NHS cash doesn't lead to an improved NHS. Wat Tyler has analysed the latest figures at the blog "Burning Our Money" and reveals that no less than 87% of the extra NHS cash is being spent on cost increases. This is what happens when you simply tip money into the top of an organisation. In part it explains why, after a Labour spending splurge (that's our money by the way), nurses are facing redundancy, graduate doctors can't find a job and 80 or so hospitals are closing.
A prime example of incompetent spending is GP contracts. These were introduced in 2004 and GP pay rose 30% (!) to an average of £106,000 in the first year of implementation. But, surely we're getting more in return say the optimists. A spokesman from a Health Watchdog reports that after the introduction of the new contracts GPs no longer do evenings, no night work, weekend work - this has all got to be paid for somewhere else. Magic.
Friends of mine who are experienced GPs live in a house that is worth half a million - I don't believe a mortgage was required. They're still working. Many others are enjoying their early retirement on the backs of their bonanzas.
In an admission of incompetence coupled with an extraordinary attack on the GPs themselves, Health Minister, Patricia Hewitt regrets the deal that the government struck. What a shower. Next she'll be taking part in demonstrations against herself a la Junior Health Minister Ivan Lewis.
18 January 2007
Bloggers who work in the public services are of particular interest to me. I've decided to add a new link in my policing section.
Check out PC Tim Ireland
17 January 2007
Here's a couple of sensible quotes about education and teachers that mirror my views.
Education is the transmission of civilization.
Good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost more.
A blogger who holds the Stalinist-sounding post of "political education officer" has caught my eye. As the website for the organisation to which he/she belongs to lists no events or campaigns for this year, I’m hoping that he/she doesn’t manage to do much "teaching" based on the following views expressed on the website to which he/she contributes.
On the Queen
"Do you think the French have any guillotines left that we could borrow?"
On the Klu Klux Klan
"Aka the Republican Party"
On the Tory response to Hitler
"Appeasement of their fascist fellow-travellers on the continent"
If you’re interested to join this group, they are looking to fill the following vacant roles. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Officer and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Officer. Free membership may be available to the first person to guess the organisation. Clue - it isn't the Labour group on Sandwell Council.
Well done to Haddock for matching the views to the organisation (See comments). Their posts on Europe, the Queen and Education are particularly revealing.
Continuing my series on Birmingham Labour MPs, here are the three Birmingham Labour MPs whose prospects at the next election are most unclear. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to go for a beer with any of them, so don't get too excited. Here they are in no particular order.
1. Stephen McCabe – Hall Green (TBC as Selly Oak candidate)
Swing to unseat - N/A seat boundaries have changed so much.
As Lynne Jones has announced her intention to stand down, I am assuming that Stephen who is the current MP for Hall Green will be selected for Birmingham Selly Oak. Although uninspiring, Stephen is a safe pair of hands for Labour. However, the boundary changes bring this seat into range for the Tories. After the May elections, it is expected that none of the councilors in the redrawn constituency will be Labour. The majority will be Conservative. This seat is very winnable for the Tories next time especially as I don’t expect the Liberals to go very hard here.
2. Roger Godsiff – Sparkbrook & Small Heath (TBC as Hall Green candidate)
Swing to unseat – N/A seat boundaries have changed so much.
Roger is the sitting MP in the inner city parts of the wholly reworked Hall Green seat. Potentially, he faces strong opposition in the more affluent parts of the seat from the Lib Dems and from the highly ethnic areas from Respect and the Lib Dems. Off-line, I’ve been told by a respected local source that Respect’s campaign is likely to be well supported in this seat by
disillusioned Labour supporters the Socialist Alliance. I hate to be pessimistic about Tory prospects, but a top three finish would be an achievement here. Very difficult to call the winner at this stage.
3. Richard Burden - Northfield
Swing to unseat – 10.4% to Conservatives
This is Conservative target number 197. Although I think Labour’s 2005 showing was buoyed by a pre-election
bribe injection of funds, which the government have recently reneged upon, the required swing is large (although a similar swing occurred in 1979). This seat is virtually unaffected by boundary changes and Richard Burden is quietly effective. Despite dominating local political representation, the Tories would need a first-class candidate and campaign to mount a serious challenge.
What I find so amusing about some of the campaigns championed by bloggers from the left is how ineffective they are. For example this. Even Brown's closest supporters must be getting tired of being sycophantic to a man who seems to be perpetually six months away from claiming the prize. In a classic Blairite twist of the knife, the current Prime Minister also told his successor that he would have to be "new new Labour" to win a fourth term.
Enough's enough. As a campaigner with a successful track record, I have decided that I will lend my support to the Brownite efforts so that the long-suffering Scotsman gets into number 10. Partly inspired by the splendid blogger Serf, I am officially joining the "Tories for Gordon" campaign. The campaign will include making sure that Labour get thumped to a pulp in the May local elections so as to increase the pressure on Blair. I hope I can rely on my reader's enthusiastic support?
16 January 2007
There are three MPs in Birmingham that look like they are going next time. It’s an unfortunate coincidence for Labour, that it is likely that all of three female Labour MPs elected in 2005 won’t be around after the next election, although it is expected that the Ladywood reselection will have an all-women shortlist.
1. Clare Short – Ladywood
After 23 years in the House Of Commons Clare announced at the end of last year that she will not be standing for Labour at the next election
Swing requirement – 10.3% to Lib Dems – as the issues around the Iraq war fade, Labour are reasserting their authority in the Ladywood seat at the local level. Although the selection process should make interesting viewing, a hat-stand with a red rosette could get in here. Labour will regain this seat at the next election.
2. Lynne Jones – Selly Oak
Labour lose one seat as a result of the redrawing of constituency boundaries. Three Labour seats into two does not go and Lynne Jones is the fall gal. She has announced her intention to stand down at the end of this Parliament to spend more time with the family and due to the challenging reselection process that she would have faced.
3. Gisela Stewart – Edgbaston
Swing to unseat – 2.8% to Conservatives
This is Conservative target no. 47. Gisela might well fall on a national swing next time, but other factors make her even more vulnerable. Deirdre Alden, the popular Conservative PPC is a local councillor and also stood in 2005. Furthermore, local Conservative activists have become significantly more energized of late. Increasingly right-wing, Gisela receives fanmail from conservative conservatives. Her best hope to remain in Parliament is to go the whole hog and defect to the Conservatives to fight a nearby seat.
15 January 2007
I am happy with my blog redesign. Still have a few inks to tidy up, but we're basically there.
Guido Fawkes is looking for someone to help redesign his blog. Moving away from the established templates seems to be the latest trend. If any blogger is looking for a basic redesign I'd like to advocate a fellow Prague resident, Matt, author of the website its the sads. His pitch is simple
I can redesign it as you want
My brief was very short, but he came up with a few cool ideas. He also transferred me to beta blogger and put tags on my posts. Matt is on email, msn and skype so it was painless to bounce ideas back and forth. One thing he did that worked well was to set up a test blog before going live where he experimented with ideas. Here's mine.
Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Funky Design to outline your needs. The price is £75, but I'm sure you can negotiate it down if your needs are clear and your blog is not as right wing as mine.
In 2005, Birmingham returned nine Labour MPs. Since then a third have resigned from office or the Parliamentary party and one of that number is also a national laughing stock after his aborted attempt at satire on YouTube.
If I was a Labour member, I’d be horrified. Personally, I’ve been speculating about something in the water. I’ve decided to profile the fortunes and prospects of these nine sitting MPs. Here’s the roll of honour with their current seats and my favourite link pertaining to them.
Edgbaston – Gisela Stuart
Erdington – Sion Simon
Hall Green – Steve McCabe
Hodge Hill – Liam Byrne
Ladywood – Clare Short
Northfield – Richard Burden
Perry Barr – Khalid Mahmood
Selly Oak – Lynne Jones
Sparkbrook & Small Heath – Roger Godsiff
My astonishing prediction is that less than half of the above will be Labour MPs after the next general election. I’m going to do a more detailed rundown on three at a time, so before I start, please contribute any relevant comments.
12 January 2007
A scoop is like a joke. It’s all in the timing and delivery. Just like a good joke can fall flat on its face, if you haven’t got the crowd’s attention or you get the timing wrong, a good scoop can fail for the same reasons.
A Few Thoughts On Timing - Stick or Twist?
Say I had a scoop that embarrassed political opponents of mine, the ideal would be to deliver the said story on a slow news day, on the back of related stories, shortly before an election. However, it’s not always such a good idea to wait. Once a story has been sniffed out, for every day that you hold back the chance that somebody else will find the story and make the splash increases and it’s unlikely that they will have the same objectives as you. Also, if it is apparent that you have been "sitting" on a story, people will question your motives – possibly undermining the plausibility of the story itself. As with jokes, there is no right answer on this – it’s instinct.
A Few Thoughts On Delivery – Spearhead or United Front
One of the main decisions you have to make with a scoop is how you plan to deliver it to the world. Again, many factors come into play. I think that if you are very confident in your scoop, have some profile and are prepared to be the lightning rod for counter-play, then taking the role of spearhead for the scoop is best. You have the advantage of retaining control and whilst you will inevitably take flak from your opponents, your "side" will undoubtedly coalesce around you – a recipe for a big story. The united front is advisable for those with lower profile. If you take this approach you may try to take some responsibility for co-ordinating the delivery of the scoop, but you certainly lose control and key elements or factors of the scoop may get lost in the process. The united front has the feature of more "owners" of the story which can be a strength, but increases the chance of misunderstandings and internal dissent.
Do you have any comments re the above? Are there other factors to consider? Any related stories to share?
After becoming aware of them through Iain Dale, I have added the West Midlands Conservatives website to my blogroll. They have a fairly generous definition of the West Midlands and it is a useful site for learning about news in the wider region. MEP Phil Bradbourn is advertising for a new research assistant which looks like an interesting role for the right person.
I haven’t managed to get through all their blogroll, but I decided to visit Jesse Norman’s website. Jesse is the PPC for the Hereford and South Herefordshire seat and is local to the area. Of course he is well known as a journalist and his recent articles are displayed on his website. In particular I liked this piece on tribal politics.
10 January 2007
Just been staring through my window at a beautiful blue sky as thin cirrus clouds track slowly by and wandered to myself why do I do it. Political blogging. I have a very quiet and easy life in Prague - most Brits here don't even keep in touch with events back home in any meaningful way. The conversations last night at chess were about teaching English and the Belgrano. So why do I deliberately stir up my own genuine feelings of disappointment and dismay in my motherland? I don't have to. Everyone needs to compartmentalise and it woud be completely rational for me to chuck the UK into a corner (in a figurative sense). Of course I won't, but I think I will for today. Mind you this amused me.
Update - it's clouded over.
09 January 2007
A friend from the Danny Dewsbury campaign who studies history with interest has prepared a post comparing two governments. Cleverly done. Here's the link.
Star Wars v Star Trek
Guido has been using Star Wars comparisons about our wonderful government. I prefer to use Star Trek as an analogy. Labour are boldly going where no government has gone before. I could argue the British
citizen subject had more rights under Magna Carta than they do today. Here's two examples of what's happening and why the natives are getting restless.
Yesterday, the 10 Downing Street website was down for a time under the weight of people logging in to sign this petition to oppose the government's intrusive road pricing proposals. The government's proposal is to introduce road pricing. It will mean you have to buy a vehicle tracking device and pay a monthly bill to use it. The upfront cost will be about £200 and in a recent study by the BBC, the lowest monthly bill was £28 for a rural florist and £194 for a delivery driver. On top of this massive increase in tax, you will be tracked. Somebody will know where you are at all times. If you accidentally creep over a speed limit you can expect a top-up with your monthly bill.
Is An Englishman's Castle His Home Any More?
Here's another reason to get angry. Tony Sharp is rightly incensed by the government proposals to have a team of door-knockers visiting your house every year to update your council tax valuations. I smell civil disobedience.
08 January 2007
18 Doughty Street the internet politics show returns. People have accused 18DS of being biased, but the planned debate tonight goes some way to refuting this suggestion. At 9pm GMT there will be a debate on bullying on blogs. Unafraid to air a selection of views, Alex Hilton of Recess Monkey will presumably be arguing for bullying.
Alex is on record as saying that the disabled should be targets for satirists. No holds barred for Alex. I look forward to him putting forward a consistent position tonight.
If the participants struggle to define their position in the debate, they might want to consider the acceptability of this post where Alex's looks were placed under the microscope with unfortunate results.
The leaders of the major parties (by that I mean Blair and Cameron) are supporting Ruth Kelly as am I for her personal decision to pay for her son to be educated privately. More here.
However, Labour MP Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons education select committee, said: "Before we start a witch-hunt about a particular Cabinet minister, let us find out what the circumstances are and let's then duly consider that" .
So they've banned fox-hunting, but witch-hunting - that's OK. And who's we? And what does "finding out the circumstances" involve? Do "they" want to see Master Kelly's school reports/medical records before deciding that the decision is OK? Is it just me or do you get the feeling that being an open Christian in the Labour Party is frowned upon? Don't let the b*****s grind you down, Ruth.
Personally, I thought the quote I found was the most newsworthy, but the BBC has kindly removed the element of Shearman's quote emboldened above. The rest of the article looks the same. Anyone would think NuLabour have got the Beeb in their pocket.
My new sidelinks feature is blogwatch. It keeps a focus on the must see blogs. PHITCH has started blogging and is experimenting with graphics. Over at Suz's blog, she's having some fun at the expense of the Lib Dem leadership. Martin Kelly has had a sad death in the family (I extend my sympathies) and issues a warning about the new video release "Snakes On A Plane".
BRIDPORT -> PRAGUE
A man swollen with civic pride, Mutley the dog has intimated that he wants to allow Prague to twin with Bridport Wales. I noted my surprise that he was considering undertaking this venture from a distance, so he is coming to Prague some time next week or in March.
Mutley mentioned the Bridport Literary Festival and I admit it made me feel a bit competitive. In Prague we have Shakespeare & Son and Big Ben Books and occasional open mike slots where
Americans anyone can read their own poetry, prose or conspiracy theories. There is no truth in the rumour that Piper Publishing s.r.o has opened for business. I'm not bothering with the news websites today, so feel free to let me know what's happening?
07 January 2007
James Higham tagged me on a meme about how I feel now and what my targets are for the end of January and end of March. Cheers James - I don't mind at all - although I've got to stop doing these meme things. I'll start by reviewing my first week of 2007.
IT'S BEEN MY BEST WEEK IN BLOGGING TO DATE
I've had more than 600 page views a day and close to 300 readers a day so far in 2007. Comments have run at one per hour, I haven't deleted or moderated a single one (I think) and highlights have included a visit from Boris Johnson's blog and the first comments from people in my family (but then again I did announce that I just got engaged). I have prepared 24 posts and have been tagged by Iain Dale and was included in a Guido post. Further, I learnt to my surprise that I am now linked at WebCameron along with just 8 other big C Conservative bloggers.
The week has been shaped by events starting with a successful New Years Party. My posting of the Saddam video briefly brought an avalanche of traffic on New Year's day. On Tuesday, my post on John McDonnell succeeded on many levels, but I'm not saying why. On Wednesday, a good blogging friend was named as the second most popular Tory blogger. Newmania wasn't shy in breaking this news and attracted traffic for this site from many quarters including Boris Johnson. On Thursday, I was tagged by Iain Dale and on Friday Piper returned, but I was more interested in Recess Monkey and Susanne Lamido. The weekend has been more quiet, but I've been doing some fruitful research and networking behind the scenes. All in all a superb week.
Which takes me to looking forward. By the end of January, I want to set a date for the wedding. I resolved to socialise more in 2007 so blog-wise during the rest of January, I want to reduce posting significantly. However, I seem to be stumbling across/receiving stories from all over the shop so I will need to pass some on to people who'd like to run with them. So, if all goes to plan the rest of January is going to be a month of quiet back-scratching and planning. Don't worry, I'll publish the really good stuff so keep visiting, it's going to be worth it.
Re the final part of the meme, targets for the end of March, well that's quite fluid at this stage, but I do intend to have the rest of the year fairly well mapped out by then.
Important stories and rumours seem to be sloshing around just below the surface. Rather than spend time on painstaking research, I've decided to see if I can get the research come to me.
Here's the bit to attract google hits
Romano Prodi (Italian PM, former EU bigwig)
Vasilli Mitrokhin (1922 - 2004)
Alexander Litvinenko (1962 - 2006)(poisoned by $10m of Polonium-210)
Col Gen Anatoly Trofimov (1940 - 2005)(assassinated in Moscow)
Mario Scaramella (consultant on Mitrokhin and in an Italian jail)
Gerald Batten MEP (recently resigned from UKIP NEC)
La Repubblica (Italian paper "supportive" of Prodi)
Please advise further reading etc etc in the comments box.
06 January 2007
There are a few site changes I'd like to mention today.
I have put a section at the top of my links for blogs that need to be watched. These will change over time. I have started with Peter Hitchens and Susanne Lamido. Up until now, Peter Hitchens (not to be confused with the Daily Mail journalist) has been one of the most prolific non-blogging commenters on political websites. He posts regularly at Guido's and Croydonian's and has strong political opinions. No blogposts yet, but expect an explosive launch. Susanne, I have mentioned yesterday in a post about Lib Dems. Remember the Conservative councillor(s) who got sacked for racist emails. Sounds like an Islamic councillor has been sending even more extreme mails. It smells like the Libs have attempted to sweep this under the carpet. Susanne is ready to tell it like it is.
For me a key purpose of blogging is to get involved in campaigns. I am very proud to have got involved in a number to date and have compiled a list in my links - a highlight from each month of my blogging "career". Click on each item to learn more about the
scalps successful campaigns. Please let me know if you see anything that I should get involved with.
In my section on right-wing blogs I've just added Cranmer, Donal Blaney, Newmania and the Waendel Journal. Have I missed you? I keep promising to rework the design of the blog, but there's always something more important to do isn't there?
05 January 2007
I like many Lib Dems. For a start all the Lib Dems I link to on my sidebar seem like great guys - sure a bit more Liberal than me, but you'd expect that wouldn't you? Personally, I believe that the Conservative Party is a great place for freedom-loving individuals, but I'm sure some will beg to differ.
Squeezed between Left and Right, the Lib Dems are a Darwinian response to being the third party in a FPTP system - undoubtedly a brilliant electoral machine. To survive, they are generally disciplined, work closely with local communities cobbling support from a diverse range of sources and market themselves excellently.
Are feminists, homosexuals, anti-war Muslims, students, libertarians, apolitical people able to form around one big idea? Probably not and under both Kennedy and Campbell there has been no clear vision - I think it's a deliberate policy to avoid internal dissent. But, sometimes arguments caused by the underlying differences in values/ideology of the various factions of any party will rear their head.
Party discipline can only go so far. If you want to see what I mean, check this extraordinary comment at Coming Out From Under (good blog) which was taken from a post at Iain Dale's. Now ex-Lib Dem Susanne Lamido (pictured) from Islington describes herself on her site as a "tough, blonde cookie having her say". So for the full story as it develops, go to Suz's blog. It simply has to be a daily read. Good on you Suz for speaking your mind. Dearie me Lib Dems.
A teacher calling a pupil a cripple is front page news on the BBC website today. The following isn't!
Two convicted murderers escaped from an open (wtf) prison and have not had their photos published.
This is worth reading, but I want to pull out the incredible statement from a spokesman for Derbyshire Police - and I quote;
"When making a decision to release any photograph, police forces must take into account numerous factors including the public interest test,
Yes 11 of the 13 escaped convicts remain on the run, duh.
whether there is a strong local policing purpose
and this is a reason not to release the pictures!!!
and, of course, the Human Rights Act
which the Tories are committed to binning
and Data Protection Acts"
Still feel like you're on firm ground Recess Monkey?
Bel covers this too. I understand that after a great deal of ducking and diving on the BBC's 1pm news, it was announced that the photos have now been published. If there's any small c conservatives out there, it's time for you to get off the fence to do more to rid ourselves of this
Tags : Biased BBC, Not Proud Of Britain, Justice
04 January 2007
Accountancy Age reports in a very recent survey that just
85% of finance directors believe the government is using green issues as another avenue through which to increase taxes on business and that revenue raised will not go towards green issues
One irate respondent commented
Once again industry is being hammered because of the government's inability to deal with the worldwide issue. The costs to industry are staggering to comply with current legislation
A spokesman for the Treasury said
Funds raised from green taxes would not go solely towards environmental causes, but a consolidated fund
thus proving that 15% of FDs don't know what they are talking about. Note - Tory Shadow Greg Barker needs to step up his game and sharp. I don't know what he's playing at, but I am most unimpressed with his (lack of) progress at Environment.
Use the phrase "the Blearite wing of the party"
If your tactic needs an explanation, fine, give it to us. Patience is a virtue. Ideas that impress will be added to the post with a link to your site.
& from the comments
Praise Blair on his courage for invading Iraq - Danvers
Point out that Bush has trebled US aid to Africa and has a better grade degree than Al Gore. - Croydonian
and one I hadn't thought of
Point out that the BNP is also a left-wing party - bt
Special mention to Snafu, the author of Not Proud Of Britain. His site embodies the idea of this thread.
Paul Burgin has done as promised and compiled his own list.
Also, can anyone tell me why Recess monkey continues to break the law?
Uber-blogger Iain Dale has tagged me to write five things you probably didn't know about me.
1. I'm an eldest child and an eldest cousin (there are 10 siblings/cousins looking up to me - ;-))
2. In 1992 I stood in school elections as the Conservative candidate beating Labour but losing to the Lib Dems. It still serves as a handy excuse to explain why I didn't become a prefect, I think.
3. I have represented England at chess (at under 16 level and I lost)
4. In my youth I snogged a girl out of Byker Grove (please don't ask for names, but it wasn't Spuggy)
5. On the Kremlin theme (following on from Iain's list), I bribed my way in when I found out all the tour tickets were sold. The guard told me not to grin like a Westerner and I would be OK.
I tag Shotgun, Danvers, Don Paskini and the indomitable Paul Newman.
03 January 2007
When I return to the UK, it will make sense for me to buy a car registered on the continent. This car can probably be purchased, taxed, insured and serviced at a cheaper cost on the Continent than in the UK. I imagine that I would be insulated against further road tax rises, escalating British insurance premiums (mainly due to lack of enforcement/action against uninsured drivers) and the annual requirement to have an MOT. I might also benefit from the fact that speed camera
traps photos and fixed penalty parking notices that fell from the windscreen and blew away wouldn't be followed up on.
I've always been UK insured, taxed, serviced etc in the past, but the benefits of being outside the system seem much greater - and judging by the number of Polish registered cars I see when I'm in the UK, I'm not alone in making this judgement.
Sticking with the theme of war, I was delighted to come across a signed copy of the pictured book "
Sam Coates Bobby Fischer Goes To War" the other day. This book is widely regarded as one of the best and most accessible chess books. It tells the tale of the 1972 world chess championship clash between the champion Spassky and the challenger Fischer. This clash is regarded as the match of the century and not only did it develop into a chapter of the Cold War (set in Iceland), but it was also the number one sports event as New York bars ignored baseball to follow the encounter.
Bobby Fischer is famous for quotes by and about him. My favourites by Bobby are
"I don’t believe in psychology. I believe in good moves."
"When I was 11, I just got good"
"I love the moment when I crush the other man's ego"
and about Fischer
"When you play Bobby, it is not a question if you win or lose. It is a question if you survive." – Boris Spassky
"Fischer is Fischer, but a horse is a horse." – Mikhail Tal (upon hearing Bobby Fischer’s claim that he could beat any female player in the world giving her knight start)
Indeed Fischer won and Spassky survived, but both Cold War warriors were never to return to their homeland. Nevertheless Fischer received a congratulatory telegram from Richard Nixon.
My question to the
02 January 2007
As I have blogged recently, I think it would be good for Labour if Gordon Brown was challenged for the leadership of the party by a credible opponent. To date there is only one Labour MP who has publicly put himself in the frame. Below are seven policies that Labour leftie John McDonnell is campaigning on at his John4Leader website:
1. The withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
2. The end to privatisation of public services.
3. A Real Living Minimum Wage of at least £7 an hour.
4. A green energy policy based on renewable power sources
5. An increase in the Basic State Pension from £84.25 to £114 a week.
6. Defence of comprehensive education and the abolition of student tuition fees.
7. The restoration of trade union rights and civil liberties.
None of these policies look anything like those on offer from Labour or any of the mainstream parties, but I did think of one British political party where his policy ideas would be well received. Sure enough, on my first visit to the BNP's main website a look at their policies and articles confirmed to me that John's stance on the emboldened items are broadly similar to the BNP's although I couldn't confirm one way or another on points 4 and 6.
Judging by the details of Kerron Cross' startling account, John has no problem with using jackboots. So I would like to know at what point John becomes embarassed to represent a party whose policies are so massively differently from his? Maybe he should join the BNP and try to change them from within. But would they take him?
Let's see who gets more offended by my comparison - John and his fellow travellers or the BNP. All contributors to the debate welcome.
01 January 2007
The other day I listed the top 7 things I did in 2006, but stopped at 6 because one thing stands out head and shoulders above the rest. On Christmas Eve, my girlfriend of four years accepted my marriage proposal. She is a beautiful person inside and out, but obviously I can't put a picture of her on this site whilst I maintain my anonymity.
All the people we have told are delighted at the news and it feels great that we are both so welcome in each others' family.
girlfriend fiancee having a full-time job and week-end university study commitments I have promised to take the lead in organising the wedding which I think will take place in Prague (but with an additional service/celebration in Slovakia/UK at some point).
The wedding preparation adds to a rather long list of new and exciting projects personal and political that I have lined up for 2007. I don't think I've ever looked forward to a year with as much as optimism.