I was anticipating a visit from the boss today. Unfortunately he came down with the 'flu, so that gives me
some breathing space another week or so to nail down a few issues. Get better soon, boss! The survey on which issues would be most important at the next election is closed.
40% of you said the economy and tax
20% of you said law and order
17% of you picked health or immigration
Education and foreign affairs were also rans.
Check out my new survey. Mutleythedog will be blogging on Friday and Saturday. He is aiming to delight, entertain and entrance! If you don't like any of the choices, leave your topic ideas in the comments. I'm off out for a piano concert.
28 February 2007
I was anticipating a visit from the boss today. Unfortunately he came down with the 'flu, so that gives me
The alcoholic drink of absinthe is strongly associated with the Prague artistic community - poets, painters and bloggers. As part of his quest to become an internet millionaire Mutleythedog is visiting and will be sampling the absinthe. I wanted to share a few cautionary tales with my readers about absinthe.
Jeremy Van Winkle
I like to tell people the tale of the young Californian, Jeremy Van Winkle (the name has not been changed). He came to Prague to find himself - one morning he found himself straight-jacketed and tied to a bed in a Prague mental asylum. The story began when he bought a bottle of absinthe and started drinking at home, alone. The check sheet records that he was found crawling the streets of Red Zizkov (it's like a set off the film Seven) by the local gendarmerie. Unable to get a word out of him, they carted him away to the local cell which he proceeded to attack. Next step in the well-worn route was an injection and a transfer to the local asylum. Everybody's had that momentary feeling of "where am I?" in the morning, few have experienced this whilst tied to a bed in a white straight-jacket surrounded by lunatics and hooks hanging from the ceiling.
The Aussie Tourists
Another absinthe encounter happened in the aptly named Marquis de Sade bar (pictured) on a Prague side street. I met a hedonistic Australian couple out for a good time. They insisted on trying absinthe. They wanted to do the whole "lighting of the drink" shebang, I couldn't stop them. Anyway, it all went wrong. The bloke lit his drink and knocked it back with elan, only swaying slightly. His missus didn't have the same gusto and gently tipped the drink back and burnt the roof of her mouth badly. I have never seen someone's mood change so quickly. Any Aussie politician would be proud of the tirade she launched at her boyfriend. When it got onto anatomy, it was time for me to leave.
The Case Of Honza
Honza is recently retired and has a liking for the absinthe. He misses his old job as a truck driver and has set up his living room with a seat and a steering wheel so that he can recall his driving days. The absinthe helps him recall the scenery. In the picture, Honza is driving the five hour journey from Plzen to Ostrava and is about to take a comfort break.
Does anyone have any other absinthe stories?
27 February 2007
Conservatives Abroad kindly asked me to write a guest article for them. It's the first in a series from different locations outside the UK. It's a marginally better post than the pap I put up on this site. Take a look.
My boss is unexpectedly visiting tomorrow. I think he wants to see what I've been doing for the last six months or so. It had all been going so well. Does anyone have any good excuses or am I going to have to cause a diversion at Prague airport again?
Faced with the above issues, I need to book a train out of Prague. Whilst I'm away, my old friend the famed political blogger Mutley the dog is going to keep the blog warm. Fortunately, he knows a lot about Prague as demonstrated by his last post.
Last April, I spent some time helping Birmingham Ladywood candidate Peter Smallbone put Conservative election posters up on lamp-posts. We both agreed it was a necessary evil that sucked time away from really engaging the public. Therefore, I am very happy to hear the news that Birmingham's controlling Tory-Lib Dem coalition have outlawed the use of Birmingham's lampposts for electioneering. These type of posters are an eyesore, often contribute to litter and a zero sum game politically. Anything that frees up more time for candidates to engage with the voting public in a meaningful way is a good thing in my book.
Unsurprisingly, Labour's deputy leader in Birmingham, Ian Ward has opposed the move!
26 February 2007
I am feeling a bit lazy, so if any right-leaning or apolitical bloggers would like to do a guest blog post or two in the next few days, I would welcome that. I am also trying to put something together for the Conservatives Abroad blog which is another blog worth checking out. Anyway, if you want to do a post or two, mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Are Doing Well
In the run-up to last May's elections (after Labour's "worst week"), a yougov poll gave the Tories just a 3% lead over Labour. The actual results turned out as follows - CON 40%, LIB DEM 27%, LAB 26%, indicating that polls continue to understate Conservative votes. The latest Yougov polls give the Tories a 7% lead over Labour. At least as importantly, there is strong evidence that the general public are starting to trust the Tories on the economy again (I always have). In sum, available evidence suggests that the Tories will do even better in May 2007 local elections than in May 2006.
Tory Campaigning Efforts
Conservative Future has adopted a "marginal seats" campaign which is far too conservative (with a little c). Three of the seats targetted (Solihull, Wirral West and Portsmouth North) are notionally Tory under new boundaries anyway! Finchley and Golders Green (Con target no 1!)and Harlow (6) need a fractional swing to be won and even winning the least marginal target seats of Pendle (45) and Worcester (59) would only leave the Tories in hung Parliament territory.
CF Should Aim Higher
Here are the May 2006 local election results in a seat that is Conservative target 185.
Conservative 9421 34%
Labour 7962 29%
Liberal 5103 18%
BNP 3025 11%
Green 2082 8%
Other 104 0%
Considering the momentum is only swinging one way (against the government) who can tell me that we can't win a seat such as this? Actually, lots of people do, but I don't agree with them at all.
I have a nasty feeling that the Tories are aiming far too low at the next election and as a result we will miss out on a majority due to aiming too low. When we win Solihull by 7,500 and Worcester by 5,000, but just miss out in places like Dudley North (103), Reading West (107) and Barrow-in-Furness (115) - thus ending up with a hung Parliament - it will make our campaign decision-making look pretty poor. Let's move the focus to seats that we need for an overall majority. Politics is about taking risks.
A permanent Jan Saudek museum is in residence on a street called Celetna which is just off Old Town Square in medieval Prague. The following picture is probably the most famous. It's called "Fate Descends towards the River Leading Two Innocent Children" from 1970.
After visiting the museum we decided to visit a Franz Kafka museum. There are two or three Kafka museums, so we asked in a very small one where the others were. This involved crossing the Vltava river. Here's a nice picture of Prague Castle from that bridge.
At the other end of the bridge we took a picture of Charles Bridge - you can see the throngs of tourists.
In other news, we are preparing the guest room for a visit by Mutley the dog, Jen and Mr Frobisher.
There are lots of Steves, Jeffs and Geoffs in Prague (some even change their name to differentiate themselves). When I arrived in Prague in 2001, an American Jeff arrived a week before me and we met to watch a game of football and consider flat-sharing. We never shared a flat, but we did become great mates. We both come from Birmingham - Jeff is from Alabama.
We had some lovely weather last weekend in Prague and we took a long walk around the city and took some pics. The photo is of Jeff by a new statue in Mala Strana erected to commemorate the Second World War. Bravely, he has accepted my request to be my best man. He is a bit shy, so he'll probably ask me to take this post down - it stays up until then.
Mutley the dog and his brothers are visiting Prague soon and we should find time to meet.
25 February 2007
Deaths in NHS hospitals due to viruses contracted in those hospitals are at least as preventable as car deaths and are rising steeply as a cause of death. Based on the analysis below, just being in hospital is many times more dangerous than driving.
Preventable Deaths On The Road
A - Average UK car mileage (2005) 15,872km/annum
B - Vehicles On Uk Roads 25,000,000
C - Vehicle Kilometres Per Annum (A*B) 396,800,000,000km/annum
D - Road Fatalities (2005) 3,201
E - Vehicle Kilometres Per Fatality (C/D) 123,961,262km
F - Average speed on UK roads 50km/hour
G - Hours Driving Per Road Death (E/F) 2,479,225
Source for A. Source for D. B and F are ball park estimates.
Preventable Deaths In Hospital
A - Clostridium difficile on Death Certificates 3,807
B - MRSA On Death Certificate 2,080
C - Low Estimate Of Preventable Deaths In Hospital (A+B) 5,887
D - On NHS Wards (90% of C) 5,298
E - NHS Beds In Use (180,000 at 90% capacity) (2005) 162,000
F - Hours Spent In NHS Beds Per Annum (E*24*365) 1,419,120,000
G - Hours In Hospital Beds Per Death (F/D) 241,060
Source for A, B and D. Source for E.
At least 10 times as many preventable deaths are occurring in hospitals compared to the nation's roads. Resources should be reallocated with this in mind. For example, in 2006/07, Transport For London's budget for road safety is £42m, up from £18m in 2000. I don't believe this is an efficient allocation of public funds.
23 February 2007
|[+/-]|Foray Into Swear-blogging How do these fucking idiot-brained mafiosi-style crypto-Communist egotists manage to rise to lead countries again and again?
Swear-blogging clearly isn't my thing, but thanks for the comments ;-). Last night I was passed a couple of stories from Slovakia which irked me. The headlines are mine.
Slovak PM Loses Marbles On Basket-Case Tour
PM Robert Fico surprised Slovak doctors with his offer to treat Libyan children with the HIV virus in Slovakia. Fico presented the offer during a meeting with Libyan PM Bagdadi Mahmudi, who accepted it. Slovak doctors note, however, that in Slovakia there is a lack of experience with treating HIV positive children. During his two-day trip to Libya, Fico also labeled the Bulgarian nurses who are sentenced to death in Libya as culprits. However, the democratic world rejects the whole case, considering it politicized. Even the Bulgarian ambassador to Slovakia Og-nian Garkov was surprised by Fico’s statement.
Keep Schtum About Corruption
Transparency International Slovensko (TIS) nominated lawyer Maria Mesencova for the Transparency International Integrity Awards. According to TIS, Mesencova showed civil courage when she was contacted by a colleague lawyer who offered her a bribe. She reported the case to the police and cooperated with them as an agent. However, the Slovak bar later fired her from the association.
As the tax take in Slovakia is only 27% of GDP I retain hopes for the nation, but whatever the opposite of "green shoots of recovery", that's what's emerging in Slovakia. Socialist PM Robert Fico who has seen his European partners shun him for coalescing with the racist SNS party, appears to be doing a Livingstone in using his elected office as a vehicle to visit the world's tyrants and dictators. In recent months he has celebrated Cuban independence, shunned Belarussian opposition politicians, visited Libya (see above) and China. He has plans to visit Chavez in Venezuela for economic reasons (Venezuela is a country with which Slovakia has $1.5m of trade per annum). This is a man who did not celebrate the Berlin Wall fall. How the hell is he running Slovakia?
The best documentary I have seen lately is a film called Slave Labour by Danny Dewsbury. It's a short film by and about Danny. Like many others, he's trying to break into the media industry. In August 2006, he was offered a job by the Labour Party to do some work experience in the lead up to the Labour Party National Conference... The film features John Hutton (and his special advisor John Woodcock), Hazel Blears (and her assistant Emmet Regan), Hillary Armstrong, Allan Johnson, Tessa Jowell and ends with a John Prescott cameo.
Danny is a talented director and won an award for best documentary at the 2006 National Student Film Festival. This year, Danny's Slave Labour film will be showing next week at the same festival at University of West England in Bristol. His film is also showing in Oxford/Milton Keynes on 19th March at the Oxdox festival. The film is definitely good enough for a bigger audience and I hope that Danny achieves that. I won't spoil the story, suffice to say that it is an incredibly powerful critique of New Labour.
22 February 2007
Despite my disinterest, maybe Labour and Brown's poor polling is having an effect. Michael Meacher has announced today that he is going to "challenge" Gordon Brown for the leadership. Also on the loony left, John O'Donnell has already set out his platform for the leadership. I would like to see a candidate from the left challenge Brown, if only as a reminder to the public of what real Labour is all about. However, Meacher entering the race is the political equivalent of brothers rolling around on the floor fighting (pictured). It's almost beyond parody. I will update this post should Meacher provide some amusing soundbites at his midday press conference. For more detail and to watch the drama unfold, I recommend Kerron's place.
21 February 2007
As I manage to put more and more distance between myself and the BBC, I feel like I am becoming more objective about the US. Well done to 18 Doughty Street for this pro-American video. In particular, I'd like to take up the theme of security. Not only is the amount spent on defence throughout the EU behind the Americans, but the efficiency of the spending (measured by military capability) is also derisory by comparison. It is the American security blanket that has meant that Europe has been able to enjoy the luxury of being so militarily lax. Without the US, Eastern Europe wouldn't have achieved or maintained freedom from Russia. Discuss.
19 February 2007
So what did one of the most successful post-Communist leaders have to say today? Here are some polished baubles.
Quotes Of The Day
1. "Empower people - give as much government power to people as possible" - his first words of his speech. You can see why he won the Milton Friedman prize for promoting freedom.
2. "Maybe you'll have to start to do some work" - What he told the bosses of the biggest domestic companies when he made the country into a free trade area.
3. "Change the machinery" - His euphemism for kicking all the Communists out and replacing with fresh blood when he came to power (there's a few Midlands councils that could learn the same lessons)
4. "The government ends up with too much money" - What he identified as the only drawback of introducing flat taxes (as he says that politicians always come up with rubbish ideas for spending money)
5. "Europe has lost its head" - Mart's opinion of the leadership of the EU. I can't share his opinion of CAP on a family blog.
1. Independence from Russia was gained in August 1991. Over 90% of trade was with Russia.
2. In 1992 inflation was 1000%, GDP was falling by 30% a year and unemployment was approaching 30%. Budgeted government expenditure was double government revenue.
3. Today, access to the internet is considered to be a human right in Estonia. Within two years the whole of the country will have broadband or wifi.
4. They have successfully implemented ID cards. Mart suggested that the systems they developed cost 600 times less than that quoted by Microsoft.
5. All government spending is disclosed in detail to the public. Several government workers have lost their jobs as a result of journalistic probes into this information.
My only criticism (about which I asked a question) is that he has an incredible fantasy that a common EU foreign policy can be developed. Nonetheless, it was energising to see a politician whose nationalism and anti-Communism was so clearly hard-wired into his political DNA.
Mart Laar Synopsis
Former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar is coming to give a talk in Prague today. Mart Laar first became the Estonian Prime Minister in 1992. He was the Prime Minister of Estonia from 1992 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2002. Mart's background is academic and he was a history teacher and he has written several historical books. In 2006 he won the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty which is awarded biannually to "an individual who has made a significant contribution to advancing human freedom."
In 1994 Estonia under Laar was the first country to implement a flat tax, - over time this has decreased from 26% and is planned to reach 20% by 2009. Unemployment is at 4% and along with the other Baltic Tigers, Estonia has boomed in the 21st century. Estonia is the richest of the tigers and economic growth averaged 10% in 2005 and 2006. My understanding is that he is pro-EU, but his support is pragmatic (geo-political) and not ideological.
18 February 2007
"There are good people in the Parliamentary Labour Party but not enough of them. At times, I feel that colleagues would vote for the slaughter of the first born if asked to." Labour MP - Alan Simpson.
When you look at the Cabinet, the first statement is beyond doubt. As for the second assertion, name names Alan.
16 February 2007
I'm meeting up with a local ODS political activist later today for a beer. As you probably know the ODS are the Conservative Party's coalition partner working towards forming a Euro-reform grouping in 2009. I think it's important to make relationships at all levels in the party.
Other than to update existing posts or respond to comments, I'm going to try to make a conscious effort not to blog this weekend. Besides, I think some of my recent postings are quite good and worth a browse. Laters PT.
The three candidates on the final shortlist to be the Conservative PPC for the key target of Wolverhampton South West are Eddie Hughes, Giles Inglis-Jones and Paul Uppal. Based on their track record, I believe all three can win the seat. The open primary selection takes place today at the Molineux football stadium.
Blogging As A Campaign Tool
As you can see on the Wolverhampton SW primary website all three candidates have set up propa blogs (i.e. with comments) as part of their campaigning efforts. Both Paul and Eddie have incorporated video-blogging in their posts and I think that this does help politicians communicate with a personal touch.
Fence-Sitting Is An Unattractive Trait
I know that Giles is a committed Conservative, but I'm afraid the review of his website got me no closer to knowing what he would be like as a person or a politician. He'd have to impress me at the hustings.
Eddie Hughes is a popular local politician and is happy to be called a compassionate Conservative. He was the agent who can take credit for the marvellous success of Councillor Mike Flower in a recent by-election. Some have tipped Eddie as the front-runner and he would stand a good chance of securing my vote if I was at the primary.
Nevertheless, based on what I have seen so far, my first choice is Paul Uppal. His video blog entries convince me that he has a natural charm and can appeal to a wide range of voters. He is clearly a sound Conservative, but what I liked most was that he managed to convince me that he is a practical politician who can get things done.
Wolverhampton South-West is a good example of a primary selection process benefitting both democracy and the Conservative cause. The efforts of the losing candidates can be used to assist the winner going forward. Best of luck.
Unlike, Wolves fans, I backed a winner. Paul Uppal has been selected.
Now, where's my betting slip?
15 February 2007
Before becoming the Labour MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce was in the military. I know the MOD is famed for its wastefulness, but these figures are a disgrace.
Eric's Expenses (never outside the top 2 for travel)
Eric racked up the highest travel expenses of any MP in the 2005/6 financial year. His travel expenses are well over £5,000 higher than any other MP.
This ongoing exorbitant waste of taxpayers money is a matter of public interest. I want to hear from Eric whether these travel expenses include transport for domestic staff. His au pair used to travel very regularly up to Scotland with Eric and his family and the Joyces would pay for her to return to fly in style back to Slovakia several times a year. Can someone who knows more about what MPs can and can't claim for give me some clarity around this issue? Eric's generosity was legendary, but was it at the taxpayer's expense? By the way, even if this spending is all legitimate, it shows a level of incompetence that makes him unfit to be an MP.
As the anti road-pricing petition heads towards 2 million signatures and Labour Transport Minister Douglas Alexander is saying inaction is not an option (Note - that was official policy when Prescott was in charge of transport) I thought it was a good time to ask what are our MPs doing personally about these issues?
The MPs 2005/6 travel expense lists has just come out (I’ve still to set a date for my interview with a lady friend of mine in Prague who was an au pair to a high-spending MP) which is always of interest. Dizzy makes a good point that MPs should car-share more to ease congestion, help the environment and save taxpayers’ money. This could be a cross-party initiative. I decided to do some off-the-cuff pair ups. First of all I thought of Rob Wilson and Martin Salter who are the two MPs for Reading could share cars. Tony Blair and William Hague are also in adjoining seats – by sharing cars they could make a great contribution. Can you suggest any other groups of MPs who could carshare?
COUNCILLOR BOB PIPER
A long time ago, I dropped a note to Cllr Bob Piper. Soon after, he got in a whole bunch of trouble and lost the online argument. Impolitely, he passed the name in my email to every online Leftie he could muster. In a typical example of Lefties trying to equalise downwards, Bob attempted to out me on his climbdown post and then only retracted in return for technical assistance. Of course, he has named me since, causing me to follow through on my promise to publish his angry email threats.
And check out this recent double-header from Unity and the blogging policeman Tim "Manic" Ireland when they were out of their depth in the argument.
The inaccuracies in your comments about me are laughable. - Praguetory
Fair enough - I’ve checked and you’re not the Dominic Fisher cited as co-author on a number of ESOL text books. Do excuse me for having accused you of achieving something with your life. It’s not a mistake I’ll make again. - Unity
LOL - Dominic, your bluster means nothing here… stop wasting it... - Tim Ireland
TOM WATSON MP
My comment on yesterday's post by Dizzy’s hit a MASSIVE nerve with MP Tom Watson. As if to prove he can dish it out, but he can’t take it, he did an entry outing me last night. Me, I was celebrating Valentine’s Night, but I suppose Tom’s been married for a while. How does the saying go? "You can take the man out of the Whip’s Office, but you can’t take the Whip’s Office out of the man."
Of course, apart from possibly endangering the livelihood of the blogger, this behaviour doesn’t improve democracy. I had to dive in to make this precise point over at Labour blogger Political Hack’s place only a few days ago. Outing anonymous bloggers are the actions of a brute who has lost the argument. Tom also did a piece on how to spread an internet rumour. I’ve got one involving Tom Watson, SS and an elderly Tory MP. I’ve held it back until now. I bet it will come out in due course though.
Interesting to think that the idiots above want bloggers to conform to a set of rules. Feel free to tell them where to go.
9am Update - Tom's mate Mike Ion is up early. Anyone who would listen to Mike, doesn't have me on their blogroll anyway, but thanks for the plug, Mike. I wander if we can expect any more spontaneous postings today?
14 February 2007
Standing For Election
At the age of 17, I stood for the Conservatives in the 1992 school election. I didn’t have any particular inclination to stand, but when the Head of History asked our general studies class for volunteer candidates, I was thrust forward. As the most vocal defender of the Tories and capitalism in classroom debates, I felt obliged.
My tactics were fairly orthodox. Me and my small team produced posters suggesting that Labour would be profligate with taxpayer’s money, we campaigned in the playground and had a Q&A in the main hall. The only bit I remember of that session was a Labour supporter heckling that I was against the working classes for not putting state support for mud-wrestling on a par with more established art forms.
The Lib Dem and Labour candidates were both good blokes (deep down), but the Labour campaign had a secret weapon – the school’s best cartoonist. This gifted chap (who has since designed album covers for some major bands) took to preparing caricatures of me. Nothing wrong with that, but the taglines were bizarre. In the school dining room was a cartoon of me with the quote "PT says I don’t do drugs" and there was another somewhere else that was just a simple insult.
School Allows Drug-Taking To Be Promoted
School elections are a bit of fun and nothing was at stake, so I was a bit surprised about the negative response when I complained to the Head of History about these posters. He thought it was OK that someone was allowed to put a poster up on school premises advocating drug use. To use a Jowellism, it was pretty bewildering.
Casualties Of Drugs
One of my classmates died in his mid 20s of a drugs overdose. My mum was acquainted with his mum and it must have been horrible for his family who thought that he had finally kicked his dependency. I hear on the grapevine of other bright kids from school who have not yet fully recovered psychologically from drug experimentation in their younger days.
I held back a little on this post because I wanted to hear Cameron give a similarly unequivocal anti-drugs message. He has, and I endorse every word from this article.
For the record, I smashed the Labour candidate in the election getting double their votes, but the Lib Dem beat me. But as I think the saying goes (and I may have got the wording on this quote slightly wrong), kids like Lib Dems. Anyway, Valentines Day duties call.
Open primaries are a great way of enhancing the democracy and an eye-witness blog entry describes how she believes that the evening helped enthuse the public. Therefore, it is with concern that a well-connected Labour blogger who is running the Hillary Benn for Deputy on-line campaign would openly boast about fraudulent activity at the selection. The fact that Labour supporters would call Alex Hilton of Recess Monkey to crow about their behaviour tells you all you need to know about his attitude towards democracy. Labour's counter-attacks against popular Downing Street petitions, their concerted attacks on bloggers and this latest co-ordinated interference in a selection process are just some of the many symptoms of the deeply sick patient which is the Labour Party.
Possibly as a result of the ongoing cash for peerages and ongoing Home Office travails, I think that the blogosphere didn't do enough analysis on the conviction of Clive Goodman. Clive Goodman was News of the World royal editor and he and a "co-conspirator", Glenn Mulcaire were sentenced to prison for crimes related to intercepting phone messages.
As well as the royal household, the investigation found that targets for tapping included David Blunkett while he was home secretary, David Miliband, Sol Campbell and Rebekah Wade.
There's something pretty rotten in a system where people will go to these lengths to get material and to bug the Home Secretary deserved a stiffer sentence in my opinion. I have a few points to make. Firstly, I hope that both these criminals' media careers are over. They ought to be shunned and if I hear that they are employed in any capacity by a newspaper, I will make a song and a dance over it.
Secondly, it was only greed and some good fortune that led to the criminals' capture after they revealed information that only a very limited number of people knew.
Thirdly, do you agree with what the Information Commissioner said?
"The current very low penalties under the Data Protection Act for "blagging" offences which do not involve telecoms interception are not a sufficient deterrent to stop the widespread illegal trade in personal information."
And finally has this legal decision opened the way to prosecution of other cases as previously blogged? Or will these other cases be dropped in the public interest?
13 February 2007
I think I have mentioned before that I used to be a resident of Hammersmith & Fulham council before it went blue.
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, West London's main maternity unit, is inside the extended zone whereas most of its catchment area: Hammersmith & Fulham is not. Councillors from the borough are joining with the West London Residents Association in a go-slow protest on Saturday (17th February 2006) against the extension. This is an 11th hour attempt to force the Mayor of London to reconsider implementing the scheme.
Cllr Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member responsible for Transport, said:
"This scheme is cutting residents off from vital services, of which maternity units are just one example. Do we really expect women in labour to jump on a bus? And should they really be fined if they forget to pay the charge whilst in labour? The Mayor of London should call a halt to this costly, unnecessary and damaging tax on West Londoners."
And to link to the previous post about media bias, and whilst we're talking about Hammersmith & Fulham, I'd like to point readers to this excellent post by one of my favourite blogging councillors, Cllr Paul Bristow. He's quite right that the BBC should be ashamed of themselves.
Mlada Fronta Dnes, a Czech daily, appears to have documented quite well that Josef Tosovsky colloborated with the state police in the final years of Communism in the late 80s. Tosovsky was the Czech Prime Minister in 1997-8 as part of a caretaker government and was also governor of the Czech National Bank during some very difficult times. Rather than admitting to the extent of his involvement, Tosovsky has issued a denial. Fleet Sheet (see below) bills this an implausible denial and suggests that it makes matters worse and raises further questions.
Another Czech newspaper Hospodarske noviny goes one further in its editorial suggesting that Tosovsky was blackmailable for all his years of power. It's worth pointing out that the banking industry lost 100s of billions of crowns during his time in charge. The banking system practically collapsed and became almost fully foreign-owned, but that's a story for another time.
Hat tip to Fleet Sheet, a daily English-language news bulletin devoted to the business and political activities in the Czech Republic.
Innovation within higher education is something to be encouraged. Indeed many of our universities are financially dependent on overseas students paying full fees. Some of our august institutions have even built facilities abroad.
Here's a picture of John Prescott, officially opening The University of Nottingham Ningbo, China campus last year. It was reported that John met quite a lot of students and they were delighted to talk to him (is this code for they couldn't understand him?). I have a friend who works in a Business School dealing with applications from abroad. Here's an unabridged email.
:-) Mrs Ponting ?
Hehe,I am so amazed by your letter. First,you can read my chinese name,and it seems that you know the writing order of given name,family name because you call me Mr Hong not Mr Dinpeng,that's incridable! And i think it's funny that your colleges like to pass my letter arround one by one,so you are the by far fourth people to see my letter probably.
Well,i like the gym you mentioned and i won't worry about it any more. What i am now worring the most is the program itself,is it suitable for me? Cause i only major in English,and what i've learned in university is totally rubbish having nothijng to do with investment,wait,maybe something belongs to,like i returned a lot of textbooks to the booking center and used the money returned,bought a necklace to my girlfriend.A good investment,indeed,right?
But i am not afraid to take chanllenges, i am counting the day that i can be your student. Are you also teaching? Maybe not,in China,teacher is to teach,no second jod permittion. I am wondering that if you can tell me something concerning with the program,such as its recruitment perspectives in UK,and whether normally a oversea student can easily find a job there,of course except for the labour work?
Besides,can i apply for homestay? I was told that it is just for student under 18 ?Why? That's really a good way for foreign student learn about UK and English language more quickly! Oh,my god .i have to go back dorm for the stupid dorm-check at 23:00 !!
Talk you later.
Keep in touch!
I need you!
PS: try not to pass my letter to someone again,if possible!
Have a good day!!!
And good night to myslef!
The names have been changed. If you liked that one, let me know as there are plenty more.
12 February 2007
Sent me a mail...
On Thursday 15 February, the controversial sentencing to death of Socrates, 2406 years ago, will be remembered in a special gig at the Cross Kings ( 126 York Way, N1, 5 mins walk from Kings Cross tube). Proceedings will be opened by Fiona Bevan around 8pm, sentencing passed by the Sways and, after a brief adjournment, hemlock will be ceremonially administered to the evening by legionseven. Again, we hope you can attend. If you print this invite it's only £3 to get in, too.
Over the next week, I have a fairly hectic schedule with lots of things to do and people to see. Mutley the dog (NSFW) is coming to Prague soon to tie up details around a city twinning arrangement with Bridport, so I will be trying to improve my local political network. I know that my forecasts of lighting blogging tend to be inaccurate (events, dear boy) so just take this as guidance.
Meanwhile, there are a group of lurkers on this blog who rarely or never comment. I got a nice email from one old friend who is from a family of active Labour supporters.
Good to see the blog is still going well- of what I've read you're extremely informative, thought provoking and balanced and that coming from a Guardian reader.
Any other first time commenters out there?
10 February 2007
For some reason the
waste of space position of deputy leader/PM is attracting a lot of interest from Labour politicians. So far, the only candidates running a half-way competent campaign are Jon Cruddas and Hillary Benn. It looks like David Miliband's QT gaffe means that he will have to play the long game. Both Johnson and Hain have had damaging leaks very early on and appear to have insufficiently broad support to mount a serious challenge. The potential female candidates (no pun intended) of Blears, Harman or Jowell are frankly not even rated by their colleagues. Straw is well-respected inside and outside of the party, but is probably hoping for a lower media profile at this time and Clarke (who has been floating ideas to the right of the Tories) is far too realistic to have a hope of charming the economic illiterates that comprise the Labour membership.
Vote in my poll for who would be the best candidate to fill Prescott's cowboy boots from the Tory point of view?
Update 1 - Harriet email problems
Is being an email mug the latest fashion? Harriet Harman has mailed a Tory council leader, Brian Silvester to ask for his support! Brian, fell free to vote here.
Update 2 - Useful Idiot Needed
Just for clarity, I'm not looking for a good candidate for this non-role and please don't take this poll seriously. Personally, I've yet to vote and am finding it very tricky. Which useful idiot to choose?
1. How come the Lib Dems have no discernable principles, but it's always obvious what they are going to say on an issue?
2. I've put the list of 20 blogs that I would have if I was trapped on a desert island into a Premiership blogs section on my sidebar. Your comments?
3. Which Labour bloggers aren't obsessed by right-wing blogs? Which Labour politicians are obsessed with running the country properly?
09 February 2007
In alphabetical order;
1. Arthurian Legend - another lesser-spotted Tory in Islington to complement rather than compete with Newmania legend.
2. Devil’s Kitchen – a deep and free thinker. Despises Socialism.
3. Dr Crippen – a blog about the NHS that has achieved international recognition.
4. English Boat –a blogging concept stunning in its concept and delivery.
5. Jeremy Jacobs - Asked politely for a link and has a fun and prolific site.
6. Michelle Tempest - Brilliant blog. Someone who’s taking action to improve the future of health services in the UK.
7. Peter Hitchens - Dislikes Cameron. Hates Labour. Despises being told what to do. He’s no angel.
8. Rebel Yell - A disgruntled Conservative. An honest and personal account. Just wish he’d call a truce with Mr Newman and wouldn’t link to the damned awful Howard League.
9. Suz Lamido - Finally lifting the (ahem) lid on the Lib Dems.
10. Theo Spark - I like his devil-may-care attitude and his excellent satyre.
I think I'll need some new categories for some of the above.
With two runouts, a wonderful catch, a tight spell of bowling and an unbeaten 120 in a one day final against Australia, Paul Collingwood's performance for England has to go down as one of the best in recent memory.
Thanks for restoring some pride, Paul.
Whatever else you might have to say about him, it is hard to dispute my assertion that President Vaclav Klaus is the most influential politician in Central and Eastern Europe. Allow me to share a recent article by him. Headed "The Politician I Admire" it concluded;
"For the advocates of freedom and democracy Margaret Thatcher is deservingly a living legend. I have met with many giants of the world politics but none of them has left such an impression with me as this exceptional woman."
Klaus has reached the summit of politics. One of the pluses of that position is a freedom to speak freely. This week, in answer to a journalist querying whether he might be more effective if he were to tone down his criticism of the EU, he snapped back that;
"Political correctness is one of the most destructive things of current times. It is just as dreadful as Marxism and perpetually retards our development"
Feel free to use the comments for other examples of politicians laying it on the line.
08 February 2007
For various reasons, I have a lot of affection for the area lying within the seat of Bromsgrove. For example, my first girlfriend was from there and I remember a 16 year old Praguetory slagging off Grauniad readers at the dinner table when her dad piped up that he was one. All the older brothers enjoyed that one, I think.
Anyway, despite that chap's leanings, since it was re-established in 1983, Bromsgrove has been blue and the Tories have a strong majority on the district council which covers the same area.
Notable of late is the continued rise of Bromsgrove Conservative Future which I have belatedly added to my blogroll. I don't know any of them personally, but they have a great range of events and sure look like they know how to have fun.
So I got myself added to their mailing list and heard about the following event. Here's the Chairman's email if you want to find out more/attend - email@example.com
07 February 2007
I’ve had an interesting 24 hours away from the PC. I haven’t exactly been working, but I did get paid for it. Here’s what was going on in the real world. Yesterday evening, I went to a mate’s office to get a lift. A corporate poster that I thought the Croydonian might like signed off.
"Live the values. Live the glue."
After a three hour journey through heavy sleet we arrived at Hotel Aston in Bratislava and had a couple of beers. Very spacious rooms. Claret and blue kit. A conference was going on there - "lubricants committed to move your world". As you can see by the website name, the innuendo didn’t start with the slogan. Their business cards were novel too, but not appropriate for a family blog.
Anyway, after a tiring series of morning meetings (yeah right) the working day ended with a spot of hitch-hiking as the mates who drove me the night before were planning on doing a full day’s work before returning to Prague. I made it back via four lifts. The first guy had major arm and hand deformities but was a nifty driver. He pointed out that his car was 23 years old and then dropped me in the middle of nowhere. The next chap explained that he took gas from Russians and put it in holes. He drove me a few junctions up the motorway and left me at a quiet junction where a car sped by every 5 minutes. The next chap was an ugly truck driver with no teeth on his way to Peterborough. Bingo. I couldn’t figure out what he was delivering, but he was very friendly and showed me pictures of his teenage daughter. He stopped just short of Prague, but I didn’t have to wait long for the final lift.
06 February 2007
Des Smith is a London headmaster with Labour links who was caught on undercover film saying that educational donations would secure donors an honours. The police thought they had enough on this minor player, but the BBC report that he is not to be charged. Within this article, I note this revealing quote from the CPS.
Although it is clear that Mr Smith made some indiscreet comments to an undercover journalist, his conversations did not provide evidence that he was trying to obtain funding for City Academies in exchange for honours
To me, this implies very strongly that there is evidence that others were trying to obtain funding for
04 February 2007
I am looking for a blogging assistant for the six weeks commencing Monday 19 March. This is an opportunity for the right person to have some fun in Prague whilst working on interesting political projects. Some blogging experience preferred, but most important are imaginative, right-wing views and a strong motivation to assist the Conservative cause. You will be located in Prague, though there may be some travel. Other terms and conditions negotiable. If you'd like to discuss further, please leave a message in the comments or mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Midlands Conservatives blog will be providing details on the selection process for five interesting seats that are coming up. All five deserve excellent candidates who are in it to win. Warwick & Leamington is ultra-marginal and needs to go blue next time.
Coventry North-West is the home seat of scandal-ridden millionaire Geoffrey Robinson. He's nearly 70. Will he stand again? North Warwickshire needs an 8% swing, but it was Tory until 1992 and could swing hard. I've previously blogged on Birmingham Northfield and on Birmingham Selly Oak here and here.
I have rearranged the
deckchairs links in my sleazewatch sidebar. Following today's News Of The World exclusive, John McTernan has been promoted to top billing.
Just started a poll based on a clever comment over at Guido's place. Join in. And Grauniad was voted reader's favourite blogging term shading out astro-turfer.
03 February 2007
On May 2nd 2007, Blair will celebrate serving 10 years as prime minister. On May 3rd 2007, his party is going to take one hell of a kicking in the Scottish, Welsh and local elections. No matter what Blair does between now and May, short of being arrested, he's not going to stand down. What the Labour Party's membership thinks is an irrelevance. It serves neither Brown or Blair's personal interests for Blair to go before then. Blair gets his ten years and Brown doesn't carry the can for electoral meltdown. Even if Levy gets arrested, I think that Blair can and will brass it out. He will be forced to announce his exact departure date very soon after the May elections.
02 February 2007
Beginning Of Cameron
Way back at the start of the Cameron leadership, Tamzin Lightwater suggested in her Spectator column that Thatcherite and Tory were words not to be mentioned at Conservative Central Office. About a year ago, well before my blog had begun, I was having a debate with a fellow Conservative about the word Tory. I said we had to own and alter the Tory brand, he argued to bin it. My main argument was and is that whether we use it or not our opponents will continue to use the word "Tory" disparagingly. Rather than run away from the label, obviously, I prefer to embrace the term.
Tories Are Back
On these themes, there have been some very interesting developments. The chaos of the Blair backdrop has helped, but Margaret Thatcher is unquestionably becoming a legend in her own lifetime. She was rated as the best PM of the 20th Century in a poll of historians last August and now on the Daily Politics poll she is sweeping all other PMs aside with a full 65% of the vote. Tamzin Lightwater's column suggests the right-wing elite have cottoned on and Dave doesn't seem to mind being called a true Tory by friendly newspapers.
We're Not So Old Either
In my book Tory and Conservative are interchangeable terms, but Tory is snappier. As such, I would like to introduce you to the newest blogging Tory. His handle is Brummietory. He might not be old enough to vote yet, but at the age of 17 he has just been appointed the Chairman of Kingstanding Neighbourhood Forum!!! Brummietory lives in Sion Simon's Birmingham Erdington seat (I know - it's too good to be true isn't it?), but he isn't the only young Conservative making a difference in that area. Birmingham's youngest councillor is 23 year old Robert Alden who won the Erdington ward from Labour last May. When you read through local anti-crime initiatives, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Robert's the only local politician trying to make a difference. More reasons why I'm proud to be called a Tory.
Sloppy, inaccurate posting at Labour Home concerning the news that the Tory Conference will be held at Birmingham in 2008. The comments are just as misinformed/moronic. I hope you agree that the following fisking is fully deserved.
According to reports on Conservative Home, Birmingham's (Tory-administered) Council has bunged the Tory Pary £2million to host their 2007 Conference in the City.
I think you'll find that it is a discount.
Apparently, the justification for giving a political party £2million of taxpayers money is that the amount of business it will generate will greatly exceed this "investment" - the figure £25 million is mentioned. Well, I can't see how it will raise a single penny in income for the Council - so this is a ludicrous assertion.
No. Yours is the ludicrous and badly informed assertion. NEC Ltd which runs the city's conference venues is 50% owned by the council. Therefore, a significant proportion of the income from the conference will benefit the city's coffers directly.
If local businesses who may well benefit from the dosh pouring out of Tory delegates' and other hangers-ons' pockets, want to bribe the Conservatives, I have no problem with that: how private businesses spend their money isn't my concern. But using taxpayers' money - including a large majority of taxpayers who do not support, let alone contribute to the Tory Party, is outrageous. I'm not sure it's even legal.
Marketing Birmingham (in which the council has a minority stake) has been trying to get all three major parties to hold their conferences in Birmingham. This has been supported by all three major parties leaders - Bore for Labour, Whitby for the Tories and Tilsley of the Lib Dems - although it was reported in September that the Labour group in the city opposed trying to get the Labour Party to come! (don't ask me why).
And for the record, it would have been as outrageous if Manchester Council had bunged Labour £2million to net the 2006 Conference.
Do you know what subvention is? Marketing Manchester has a subvention policy for conferences hosted in the city. If cash-strapped Labour didn't manage to get a discount for their event, that's just another example of Labour incompetence.
Oh, and yet again, we see Lib Dems complicit in this maladministration, given that they're the larger party in Birmingham's coalition.
Wrong again!!! There are 41 Conservative councillors and 32 Lib Dems in the ruling coalition in Birmingham. There will be more after the May elections though (haha).
This economically illiterate and woefully inaccurate post is a typical partisan jibe.
In other news a former Labour PPC reckons that his comrades should turn up waving placards and throwing eggs. What a bunch of idiots.
COUNT ME IN is a campaign designed to give disability sport a bigger voice in this country. The organisers of the campaign, the English Federation of Disability Sport, need 10,000 names before the end of March 2007. If this amount of names is secured, disability sport is assured a high profile in the media for reaching the target. Please show your support and register by logging onto www.efds.net and clicking on the REGISTER YOUR SUPPORT link. PLEASE REMEMBER TO CHOOSE DSE IN THE REGION SECTION.
Pictured is possibly the greatest disabled swimmer of all-time Natalie Du Toit, who was voted 48th in the prestigious Greatest South African poll.
Thank you for your support.
01 February 2007
Gongs & Confetti
Allegations that Lord Levy offered Labour donors Peerages and Knighthoods in return for their generosity are not exactly under wraps. It's well documented that Levy has applied the screws to wealthy businessmen (such as his rude approach to Charles Dunstone). Almost every Labour donor has been thrown a gong - Loudmouth David Puttnam got his after £25,000 in Labour donations, Ruth Rendell after £15,000, Melvyn Bragg £32,500, Lord Waheed Alli - free films (I must tell Danny)... I could go on.
Blair said in December that the peerages awarded were "party peerages" (as few of the donors actually did any party work it would appear he has no defence against the cash for honours charge) and now there's talk of incriminating handwritten notes from Tone. Hardly the actions of innocent parties, 10 Downing Street have utterly failed to co-operate with the police during this investigation. Blair and his head of government relations have been interviewed twice, his chief fundraiser arrested twice, latterly on the more serious charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - and that's before we start on Ruth Turner.
As Ross Cowling astutely observes, the UK resembles a banana republic. Where are the men in grey suits?
Nick Robinson - Sleuth Or Simpleton
Meanwhile, the BBC's chief political correspondent, Nick Robinson (pictured - who has yet to accept a comment from me on his blog and is knocking out articles on Peter Lilley (!)) is trying to put the pieces of the jigsaw together. As Donal Blaney would say, GET A GRIP.
I've reneged quickly on my attempt to avoid blogging about blogging, but I did say I would comment on the poll results.
Above is a chart of this site's stats. The number of hits has increased steadily by 50% a month since this blog started. Maintain that rate of growth and I'll be getting more than a million hits a month by the end of 2007! As I've said before, blogging is a means to an end, one of several interests of mine and I have no ambition to be a uber-blogger. Nevertheless, I fully expect to hit new peaks in the coming months and I will be especially active around the time of the May elections.
These stats dovetail quite nicely with the site poll (which I'll keep running for a while) that shows that about half of the visitors to this site only started looking at political blogs in the course of the last year. I think that a large part of the growth in this site's popularity is linked to the increasing popularity of the medium as a whole.
Referrers - Dale style
Each month Iain Dale lists those websites referring over 100 visits. Here's my somewhat shorter list for January
1. Guido 2. Iain Dale 3. Croydonian 4. DizzyThinks 5. Biased BBC 6. Laban Tall
Interestingly all the above are rightwing bloggers, although Labour-supporting Mars Hill was 7th with 91 visits. How's it going with your webstats? Is there a general rise happening?
Being A Democrat
I am a democrat. Commitment to this concept outweighs my party affiliation or other political beliefs. That doesn't mean that I think that democracy can be imposed overnight - as Iraq shows. Pragmatism is essential. Democracies should evolve so that the elites give more real power to the people over time. It's interesting to note that most of the first modern day Parliamentary democracies evolved in island states. This underlines that in the eyes of the elite, security usually comes before democracy and states under threat won't trust their people to make the right choices between butter and guns. Unfortunately, in the UK today our democracy is deficient in many ways.
Three Steps To Enhancing Democracy & Save Money
As this Parliamentary exchange shows the Electoral Commission costs about £30m a year. It has failed. If it restricts its work to dealing with inquiries from the public and registering political parties we can shave £25m off that. That's the saving money bit.
Step 1 - Put some of that money (not all) into an election lottery. If you vote (can include a spoiled paper), your name goes in the lottery and you can win cash prizes. Just watch the turnout rise. It would be much much more effective than the Electoral Commission.
Step 2 - Run with the our say campaign. I'd set the bar at 2 million signatures to trigger a public referendum - and no holds barred. The our say campaign still seems a little confused on a few issues. They need to speak to my friend Alan Drew who lives in Switzerland to get the finer details worked out.
Step 3 - Reform the EU. Call me a mad optimist (I am), but I believe that the EU is reformable. The EU is undemocratic and unaccountable. We need to pull back powers from them and remove the intrinsic institutional bias to legislate within the EU.
Of course another related issue is standards in public life. David Cameron - you have to take the opportunity right now to set out a clear vision for raising these standards. Banning party peerages would be a start, but it's a lot wider and deeper than the issue of the day. It's about restoring checks and balances to the British Parliamentary system. Would anyone like to contribute some further suggestions?