Friday, February 29, 2008
1. Norfolk Blogger says my blog has been banned by Norfolk County Council. I feel an FOI coming on.
2. Conservative Women are not happy with Matt Drudge.
3. City Unslicker explains why Angela Merkel has been undermined by E.on.
4. Theo Spark has got a bad case of Governmentium.
5. Ben Brogan is going red in Birmingham.
6. Bob Piper explains why Andrew Lansley is popular in the NHS and also explains his new polite promise.
7. Burning our Money on the scandal of local government pensions.
8. Danny Finkelstein on why Shirley Williams nearly re-ratted to Labour. Tony Sharp has more.
9. Donal Blaney on the difference between Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley.
10. John Redwood asks what should we pay MPs?
11. Kiwiblog looks at the likely successors to New Zealand PM Helen Clark.
12. David Hughes reveals GordonBrown had to break into his own office at 5am.
Sir - At a time when trust in politicians continues to be diminished, there is an urgent need to look again at the sanctions available when an MP has been found to have behaved improperly.
The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee is able to suspend an MP, but many members of the public feel frustration that, save for very limited circumstances, an MP disciplined by the Commons authorities will not be answerable to his constituents until a general election is called and, therefore, can retain his position and salary for some years.
As Conservative MPs all elected for the first time in 2005, we recognise that we are accountable to our electorate and, consequently, we do not think that a parliamentary committee should have the discretion to expel an MP. However, we do think that consideration should be given to creating a recall mechanism, similar to that used in some US states, to enable constituents to vote on whether they remove their MP during the course of a Parliament.
For example, in California in 2003, a petition was organised calling for the recall of the governor, Gray Davis. Once it was established that a sufficient number of electors had signed the petition, a ballot was held on whether Davis should be recalled. That ballot succeeded, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to replace him.
We would want safeguards to be put in place to ensure that this mechanism was not abused, such as requiring a high percentage of registered voters in a constituency to petition for a recall ballot, or only permitting a recall ballot when the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee has recommended it as a sanction.
None the less, a mechanism of this sort used in exceptional circumstances would increase MPs' accountability, address some of the frustration felt by a disenchanted public and help restore trust in our democratic institutions.
David Gauke MP, Ben Wallace MP, Greg Hands MP, Ed Vaizey MP, Brooks Newmark MP, Richard Benyon MP, Peter Bone MP, James Brokenshire MP, David Burrowes MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Greg Clark MP, Philip Dunne MP, Tobias Ellwood MP, Stephen Hammond MP, Philip Hollobone MP, Stuart Jackson MP, Mark Lancaster MP, Anne Main MP, Maria Miller MP, Anne Milton MP, Mike Penning MP, John Penrose MP, Lee Scott MP, Graham Stuart MP, Rob Wilson MP, Stephen Crabb MP, David Jones MP
Click HERE to read my latest Telegraph column on Andrew Lansley and NHS funding. Here are a couple of tasters...
I suppose that compared with Labour's £110 billion commitment to Northern Rock, the Conservatives should find it relatively easy to uncover an extra £28 billion to spend on the National Health Service. This is what shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley appeared to commit the party to in an interview yesterday. The truth, however, was a little different, and once we ''small state" Tories had picked up our jaws from the floor we were told that Mr Lansley had actually said nothing new and it was all a storm in a teacup. Those of us with memories of longer than six months recall the same thing being said of David Willetts' speech on grammar schools...
What was he suggesting? That the defence budget be slashed? That the Home Office should fund fewer policemen? Tory spokesmen point out that no spending pledge has been made and any suggested cuts are included in Labour's spending plans, which the Tories are committed to shadowing until 2011. But the damage had been done...
Some of Mr Lansley's detractors have long believed that David Cameron would come to regret publicly guaranteeing him the position of health secretary in a Conservative government. It seemingly gave him a licence to speak out in a manner they did not enjoy. They now feel vindicated...
The Conservatives are polling narrowly ahead of Labour on the economy and NHS. This interview may help improve the latter, but not the former. During Labour's period in opposition, between 1992 and 1997, Gordon Brown instilled an iron discipline on spending pledges. Shadow cabinet members were banned from making any pledge without his explicit approval. They were even banned from talking about money, in case anyone should misinterpret their remarks. I trust George Osborne will impose a similar discipline on Mr Lansley and his colleagues in future.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
I've written more about this issue in my Telegraph column tomorrow. And I make no apology for calling it as I see it.
When the original decision was made not to send Harry into active service I argued that it was wrong. He wanted to go. He was prepared to go, and the decision that he shouldn't go effectively made his role in the armed forces redundant. Well done to him for sticking to his guns and having the guts to go where most of us would fear to tread. Makes you proud to be British.
I'll be doing the News 24 paper review at 00.15.
I begrudge no one a fair return for their work, but a 60 per cent rise in pay for seeing 40 per cent fewer patients is not something that is defensible. This applies to GP partners, some of whom now earn £250k per annum. Salaried GPs are on £74k, while the average for partner GPs is £113,000.
The problem is not that people begrudge GPs a high level of pay, it is that they see the service they are getting deteriorate, with surgeries closing more often in the evenings and weekends. The government says it is addressing this but it is a problem of their own making.
I was astonished to read in today's Times that Andrew Lansley is promising to outdo Labour in spending on the NHS. He says that spending will rise from 9 per cent of GDP to 11 per cent. Assuming an annual average growth rate in the economy of two per cent, that extra sum is quite staggering. Health Service inflation has always been higher than in the rest of the economy, but even so, for an opposition spokesman to commit to such an increase is, shall we say, 'surprising' to put it mildly.
Such a commitment cannot possibly have been made without the agreement of Philip Hammond and George Osborne. Putting aside my strong view that the Tories should be slashing the overall level of public spending, this really does underline to NHS professionals that the Conservatives are determined to put the NHS at the forefront of their election appeal. I just wish it didn't have to be the case that to do that they have to dangle billions of extra money in front of people. It shouldn't always just be about money and a spending war with Labour. Competence, radical reform and efficiency are far more important.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The Conservatives are launching a huge advertising campaign tonight aimed at not only increasing membership, but attracting so-called "Friends of the Conservatives". And no, it's not a Dorothy-like euphemism. At least, I don't think it is! The campaign's slogan is a slightly suvggestive YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT IT. Frankie Howerd would be proud. Seriously, it's based on the song by Jimmy Cliff, which has been incorporated into a new video which has been launched on Facebook tonight by the Party. It's a great page with lots of widgets and downloads.
It has long been a mystery to me why British political parties have been so lax in emulating their American counterparts in using the internet to register supporters and raise money. If donation limits really are going to be imposed it's the only way political parties will be able to survive. Barack Obama's campaign has raised tens of millions of dollars with an average donation of £55.
The great thing about the Tory campaign is that it is hugely positive in outlook - strong on aspiration, with a tone which will hopefully attract the support of those in the 25-55 age group.
I'd love to show you the video here, but there's no embed code on it. Doh!
ConservativeHome's thoughts are HERE.
2. Cranmer asks what would happen if the BNP endorsed David Cameron.
3. Ben Brogan says the Commons authorities should have left the protesters on the roof and left them to see how they like it! He also now promises to campaign for a third runway!
4. Bob Piper wishes to continue to enjoy the freedom of touching his genitals in public.
5. Cassilis laments the 'classist' approach of both sides of the political divide.
6. Devil's Kitchen enters battle with Labour MP Keith Hill.
7. Donal Blaney has some suggestions about what to do with the protesters at the Commons. Releasing them is not one of them.
8. Vicky Ford relates her experience of the I WANT A REFERENDUM protest.
9. John Redwood calls the LibDems 'silly stunts'. At least, I think that's what he said.
10. Kerron Cross on why David C Davies was Top Cat today.
11. How the earth moved for Mrs Tory Radio.
12. Stephen Pollard on the Archibshop of La-La Land, who's "at it again".
I've just watched the whole Clinton-Obama debate screened last night from Ohio. Most pundits called it a score draw. I don't. I call it a win for Obama. Hillary Clinton needed a big win and she failed to get it - hence it is a victory for Obama. I actually thought she copped by far the toughest questioning, but her pleading for sympathy seemed inappropriate and phoney. The only area she came across as more knowledgeable was foreign policy, but few Americans vote on that issue alone. Obama failed to rise to her bait on a number of occasions and came across as sincere, polite and informed. Hillary was shrill, defensive and a little nasty.
Clinton is still ahead in the Ohio polls, but only by four or five points. Obama leads in Texas, but very narrowly. If Obama wins both states next Tuesday we'll see how magnanimous Hillary can be in defeat, or whether she intends to prolong her agony all the way to the convention in Denver.
Peter will be on Sky News PMQs at 8.30pm with The Observer's Gaby Hinsliff. Any my colleague Shane Greer will be reviewing the papers on Sky tonight at 11.30pm.
One of the world's most important Conservative thinkers, and founder of NATIONAL REVIEW magazine died today. William F Buckley Jnr passed away during the night according to the National Review Corner blog. They are carrying some very moving tributes. Here are a couple...
His accomplishments were almost incalculable. As George Will once said, "before there was Ronald Reagan there was Barry Goldwater, before there was Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was William F. Buckley." As conservatives — and as Americans — we are all standing on his shoulders.
He's probably the most gracious man I've known. He is of course a legend on the Right, and legends can be intimidating. The first time we met, my agenda was simply to avoid saying anything dumb in his presence. Yet he instantly sought to put me at ease. He asked what I was writing about and seemed genuinely curious to know. He listened to me, rather than the other way around. To my surprise, I was comfortable around him—because he had a special ability for making folks like me feel that way.
You can send your own tributes to email@example.com
UPDATE 6.22pm: The response in the comments have been interesting, and reflects what Iain Martin has said on Three Line Whip...
Did it work for the Tories? A Westminster insider would answer no. I suspect, however, that if it was shown to a focus group of civilians they would understand it much more easily.
That has caused me to pause for thought. I still think it wasn't one of David Cameron's better days but maybe my judgement on his choice of subject is indeed influenced by the thought that a "Westminster village" subject wouldn't resonate 'out there'. So far, it would seem, I was wrong.
Of course, today will be a day of contrasts. The I WANT A REFERENDUM campaign has a mass lobby of Parliament. Will this get the same amount of media coverage if the protesters obey the law? I doubt it very much.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I am told that the LibDems had planned for not only Ed Davey to provoke the Deputy Speaker into ejecting him, but Julia Goldsworthy and Norman Baker were all set for martyrdom too. Sadly, though, they couldn't get frenzied enough and merely joined a few of their colleagues in stomping out in a "well that'll show 'em" fit of pique. Several other LibDem MPs stayed rooted to their seats as they failed to react to a whips pager message ordering them to spontaneously scarper.
In the end they all managed to make total prats of themselves. It comes to something when despite hours of planning, the brewery piss-up was still totally disorganised. Whelk stall, anyone?
How do you rate the performance of Michael Martin as Speaker?
Do you think it is now time for Michael Martin to step down as Speaker?
Who would you like to see elected as the new Speaker of the House of Commons, should a vacancy arise?
Sir Alan Haselhurst 22.6%
Sir George Young 18.8%
Sir Menzies Campbell 12%
Frank Field 11.3%
Vince Cable 9.5%
Kenneth Clarke 9%
Alan Beith 4.1%
Michael Ancram 3.5%
Sir Patrick Cormack 3.4%
John Bercow 2.5%
Sylvia Heal 2.2%
Sir Michael Lord 1.1%
Who do you rate as the best Speaker of the last 30 years?
Betty Boothroyd 49%
Bernard Weatherill 32%
George Thomas 18%
Michael Martin 1%
1,122 people took part in this poll. Note that 46% of the respondents were not Conservative voters.
To sign up for Email alerts or to ask a question about TOTAL POLITICS, click HERE.
The star of the whole programme was Michael Howard. His cameo appearances showed a self knowledge and analysis of his own limitations which was gripping to watch. He knew the party had to change but knew that his own personality would not let him introduce some of the measures needed to do it.
There were one or two factual howlers - David Mellor was never in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, for instance - but overall the programme demonstrated how this genre of documentary can work. I'm not sure what appeal it will have had outside the political classes, but they deserve to be catered for too.
As a footnote, it was also interesting that Portillo admitted that his candid interview with William Hague was the first time the two men had spoken since 2001.
You can watch the programme HERE (until 3 March)
Here's what Gordon Brown's (Press Officer) said: "Over the last 40 years, Parliament has decided that it is not the best way forward. But that is not to underestimate the feelings that people have - and particularly loved ones, when the worst crimes have been inflicted."
That would be why his government is letting murder suspects out on bail then....
Translated, that quote says: "I can't actually tell Sun readers I'm really against the death penalty because a) it doesn't fit with their story and b) they'd want to lynch me." It's such a clever formulation of words you just know they didn't spontaneously emerge from the lips of the Prime Minister. Well done to the press officer who no doubt spent half an hour carefully honing them. Well done indeed
Monday, February 25, 2008
Is it me? My 10 year old daughter goes to xxxx Primary School in xxxxx, West Sussex, and has taken a balanced lunch box to school since she was 4 years old - she tends to have a chicken sandwich, yoghurt, baked (low fat) crisps, apple or banana and a chocolate bar (usually a Penguin). I now read on the school newsletter, "I am writing to remind you that we do NOT permit sweets or chocolate bars in your children's lunch boxes."
My daughter is a fit child who is absolutely the correct weight for her height. What the hell gives the school the right to demand what goes in our child's lunch box?
Of course, they ripped the kitchens out of this school years ago.
If I were that parent I'd be furious. If the school cannot provide lunch for its pupils it certainly has no place to dictate what parents give their children to eat in the packed lunches. The culture of the Nanny State in our schools is very much alive and kicking.
2. Luke Akehurst answers 20 questions from Paul Burgin.
3. Norfolk Blogger has (another) go at Nick Clegg over the EU referendum.
4. Ellee Seymour on the flaws of another government PR initiative.
5. Paul Canning accuses Jacqui Smith of complicity to murder.
6. Donal Blaney on Hillary's nasty side. I'm sure Harriet Harman would approve.
7. Ben Brogan reckons Sarkozy is turning into Le Prezza.
8. Vicky Ford enjoys a day out in, er, Luton.
9. Burning our Money on why state teachers send their own kids private.
10. Cassilis on why Hillary needs to discover humility. Fast.
11. Nadine Dorries likes someone who delivers on a promise.
12. Shane Greer welcomes a right wing BBC programme.
Question: As a feminist, are you proud of Margaret Thatcher?
Harriet Harman: No, because she was out to prove she was every bit as nasty as all the men in her cabinet.
Which part of that answer isn't nasty then? Harman and many so-called feminists like her, still haven't got over the fact that Margaret Thatcher got to where she did on her own merits. She didn't need an all woman shortlist or an A List. The frightening thing is, nor did Harriet Harman. Makes you wonder who she was up against, doesn't it?UPDATE: Ben Brogan seems to share my view. And Dizzy has an erudite response too.
I'm back later this afternoon so until then please use this as an open discussion thread. I will moderate comments as often as I am able.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
1. Phil Taylor has yet another example of Ken Livingstone's mendacity.
2. Liberal Burblings has a burble on Ming's memoirs.
3. Biassed BBC is angered by the 'Andrew Marr Love-in'.
4. Homosexuality good. Church bad. Archbishop Cranmer explains...
5. Tracey Crouch's day in the life of a parliamentary candidate.
6. Ben Brogan explains the silence of The Speaker.
7. Donal Blaney says tax doesn't have to be taxing.
8. Baroness Ros Scott reports from the Welsh LibDem Conference.
9. An Englishman's Castle is not sure about Ireland's Eurovision entry.
10. Hopi Sen on political fashion.
11. Mr Eugenides on the costs of spending a penny.
12. Dan Hannan wants you to lobby Parliament on the 27th.
1. Sir Alan Haselhurst (Con)
For: Been deputy for many years and performed well when Gorbals Mick was ill. Popular across the divide.
Against: His age, although he's the youngest 70 year old you'll ever meet.
2. Sir George Young (Con)
For: Respected, with wide experience of political life.
Against: Seen as a toff by Labour MPs.
3. Sylvia Heal (Lab)
For: Has few enemies.
Against: Has few friends on the Tory or LibDem benches.
4 Alan Beith (Lib)
For: Has no enemies.
Against: Seen as incredibly dull.
5. Vince Cable (Lib)
For: Hugely respected, would remove one of Brown's leading critics
Against: LibDems wouldbe reluctant to lose one of their stars and he pronbably wouldn't want to do it
6. Frank Field (Lab)
For: Liked and respected by most MPs who've never worked with him.
Against: Over Gordon Brown's dead body.
7. Sir Patrick Cormack (Con)
For: Deep love of Parliament and knowledge of procedure.
Against: Age and battlescars from reselection.
8. John Bercow
For: Independent minded, turned off by party politics.
Against: More popular with Labour MPs than his Tory colleagues.
9. Michael Lord (Con)
Against: Regarded by most as having had his day
10. Ming Campbell (Lib)
For: Sympathy vote, liked and respected
Against: Sympathy vote is not the strongest card.
Who do you think might be other plausible candidates? My money is on my home MP Alan Haselhurst. He's been a huge success as Michael Martin's most senior deputy and hasn't put a foot wrong. He carries the right mix of authority and humour. I hope he is indeed Michael Martin's successor.
I went to see Charles in his office. 'I think it's in the interests of yourself, your family and the Party that you should now step down.' I said. 'I don't think we can go on as we are. It's not tolerable. I tried to find an elegant way out for him. : 'You can say you've led the Party to its best General Election results since the Twenties. You've got new family responsibilities. You've got a wonderful wife and a beautiful son. You want to spend as much time with them as you can. You're leaving the party a legacy of achievement of which you're proud. All this is true.'
At this point Ming took an onion out of his pocket...
Charles listened intently. 'Ming, we've always been friends,' he said. 'I value your advice but you'll understand that I'll need to talk to Sarah. I've listened very carefully to what you've had to say.' He came out from behind his desk, shook my hand and said: 'Thank you for being so frank. We've had a long friendship. It's survived this long and I hope it'll survive all of this.'
Now I hope I am not being unduly cynical when I say that this sounds very much like the conversation Ming would LIKE to have had. I suspect Charles Kennedy's recollections may be a little different.
You can buy Ming's Memoirs HERE.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
My mum can't get out much as after five (yes, five!) hip replacements she's permanently on crutches. So it's more than my life's worth to tell them I feel awful and can't go. I shall just have Confidence in Me and sniffle my way through and imagine that I am High on a Hill With a Lonely Goatherd. I'm sure Something Good will come out of it. I just hope that for my mother, getting into the Palladium won't be like Climbing Every Mountain. Joining us will my other sister, Tracey (yes, Tracey from Essex...) who still reckons she's Sixteen, Going on Seventeen. So until this evening, So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Goodbye.
PS Do you think I've been taking too much Benalin?!
The argument surrounding DNA evidence is a perfect example of the dilemmas faced. At the moment only someone interviewed by Police has their DNA taken. If they are charged it is kept on their records, but not removed if they fail to be convicted. Some argue that if the government had everyone's DNA on record it would make the Police's life far easier and crimes would be solved much more quickly. It's a similar argument to ID cards.
This week European judges will consider the case of two people who were charged with a crime but never convicted who want their DNA wiped off the national database. This case has far reaching implications and could lead to more than 500,000 other people's DNA being wiped.
This is a really difficult one for people like me who believe that the rights of the individual must be protected from the pervasive influence of the State. In theory I would support the right of the innocent individual to have their records wiped if they had been found not guilty of a crime, or not even charged. However, the real world does not operate in this way. The individual also has the right to be protected from harm by others, and it is the role of the State to introduce laws which enable that to happen.
As I understand it the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives believe that only those convicted of a crime should be on the DNA database. It's a consistent position and easy to argue. The fact that 100,000 innocent children are on it and should never have been, 26,000 police-collected samples have been left off it and half a million entries have been misrecorded lend weight to the view that the government is incapable of managing such sensitive data.
And yet, and yet. What worries me is that sex attackers and murderers are more difficult to find without full access to DNA records. So I wonder if a messy compromise isn't something we should be considering. My only exceptions to the "No DNA record unless charged" rule would be for people interviewed on suspicion of rape or murder. I accept that it would mean some innocent people being added to the DNA register, but it would undoubtedly reduce the time it takes the Police to solve these two heinous crimes, and therefore prevent others from taking place. Of course one can take this further and use the same argument in favour of everyone having their DNA taken, as it would then lead to other crimes being solved more quickly. I realise that. But I'm afraid that murder and rape are crimes which merit a different and stronger approach.
UPDATE: Martin corrects me in the comments: "Actually Iain you're wrong to say:"If they are charged it is kept on their records, but not removed if they fail to be convicted."People who are arrested but not charged remain on the DNA database."Before 2001, the police could take DNA samples during investigations but had to destroy the samples and the records derived from them on the Database if the people concerned were acquitted or charges were not proceeded with.The law was changed in 2001 to remove this requirement, and changed again in 2004 so that DNA samples could be taken from anyone arrested for a recordable offence and detained in a police station."http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/science-research/using-science/dna-database/So the dataabse is already being populated with the DNA of people who have never been charged just in case they later go on to commit a crime. Either they should be removed or everyone should be added.
Friday, February 22, 2008
But just when it looked very bad for team Cameron, up rode the increasingly ridiculous Ed Balls with an attack which had most of the lobby rolling in the aisles. He accused the Conservatives of playing party politics in a press release on Labour headed notepaper. The Tories went into 'explanation' mode and sought to clarify what "Trips to Auschwitz" on their list of Gordon's gimmicks actually meant. They said "The government was trying to suggest in a press release earlier this month they were going to fund two children from every school. The problem is they said they would pay for it in full. But when you look at the analysis the schools have to pay £1.9 million. So what exactly is the government paying for?” Fair enough, but the damage was already done.
As most commentators have pointed out, David Cameron can hardly be blamed for this and no one seriously believes that it was meant as a deliberate insult to those who died in the Holocaust. But coming so soon after Brown's "student politics" jibe, it does look incredibly crass. Things of this sort do happen from time to time in all parties. That's not to excuse it, but I go back to my point at the beginning - checking procedures need to be far more rigorous. This should serve as a warning.
The Economist +6.7%
The Week +7.7%
New Statesman -12.7%
The New Statesman figure is very odd, as it has become far more readable and easier on the eye. But for the rest it seems that there's a very bright future. As well as my company launching TOTAL POLITICS, the Social Affairs Unit is about to publish a new right of centre competitor to Prospect called STANDPOINT.
We then did a separate and longer piece for the World Service on a similar theme. I made my usual point about the BBC having a liberal world view, but I was rather undermined when we walked back into the Today newsroom when Tony pointed out a John McCain poster on the wall. He found it most amusing.
I'm now sitting next to Gary Bushell in the reception of the LWT building waiting to do a piece for the GMTV Sunday programme with the Telegraph's Robert Colville on his CPS pamphlet, on why politicians are so rubbish at using the internet. It will be shown on Sunday between 6am and 7am.
The London Universities Conservative Ball at the Russell Hotel last night was very enjoyable despite the onset of a streaming cold (I feel like **** warmed up today). Boris spoke during the drinks reception and Nadine made the after dinner speech. Highlight of the evening was having my picture taken with Nadine clasping my head on her ample bosom. My life will never be quite the same. No more middle eastern earthquakes caused by me then!
So, once I have done this interview I'm off home to curl up in bed or maybe get my new Vaio up and running. Mind you, with my capabilities it might take all weekend...
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas party, suggested that the tremors could be stopped through the simple expedient of repealing various liberalising laws on homosexuality that have been passed by the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, in recent years... Last Sunday, to the outrage of the religious Right, the country's attorney general, Meni Mazuz, ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children. In what Mr Benizri clearly believes is no coincidence, the first of last week's quakes hit the country just two days later."Why do earthquakes happen? One of the reasons is the things to which the Knesset gives legitimacy, to sodomy," Benizri said during a parliamentary debate on earthquake preparedness. Stopping "passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes," would represent a cost-effective method of preventing future earthquakes, he continued.
"We are looking for earthly solutions, how to prevent them," he said. "I have another way to prevent earthquakes. The Gemara says that one of the reasons earthquakes happen - which the Knesset (parliament) legitimises - is homosexuality. "God says you shake your genitals where you are not supposed to and I will shake my world in order to wake you up," he added.
I hope I won't be too knackered and incoherent after tonight's London University Conservatives Ball!
The BBC Diplomatic Correspondent James Robins was adamant that this was a huge humiliation for Jack Straw, who was sat beside Miliband. I'm not so sure. He told the Commons the truth as he knew it to be. I'm not making excuses, but if your own officials tell you something and the Americans confirm it and you then go and tell the Commons, what's the alternative. In this sort of case the minister is caught between a rock and a hard place. Radio 5 didn't carry William Hague's response so I may be missing a party political point here (!) but in this case I have some sympathy for Miliband and Straw.
UPDATE: Thanks to all who left comments. David Boothroyd has come up with goods!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Simon Heffer's column today took the Tories to task over their failure to provide a proper opposition. He suggests that John Redwood should take over as Shadow Chancellor. I am a great admirer of John Redwood but I put it to Simon Heffer that he does seem to frighten the electoral horses a bit. And when Mr S calls David Willetts thick ... well, see for yourself.
2. Philip Johnston on Brown's inability to make a decision.
3. Shane Greer excuses those who take sickies. Is he trying to tell me something?
4. Sam Coates asks if the LibDems are going wobbly on Norther Rock and asks if the Government has been less than truthful over Northern Rock.
5. LibDem Voice asks when is a police investigation not a police investigation. When it concerns Lee Jasper, it seems.
6. Donal Blaney encourages those on the left to pay more tax if they want to.
7. Paul Linford wants a leap year public holiday.
8. Anthony Barnett on what's wrong with the Tory Party.
9. Tom Watson is in consultative mood.
10. Devil's Kitchen tells us what white people like.
11. Kerron Cross asks THE question about Kosovo's future. Will it be in Eurovision?
12. Cassilis has his think tank roundup.
Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike. They would surely surmise that McCain will give them what they want. Bin Laden himself intervened with what many thought was the effect of keeping President Bush in power in 2004 with that weird tape just before the poll. I think al-Qaeda would back McCain - that is not an argument for or against America backing him, but it seems to me that the vague assumption that the terrorists would back a lefty is lazy thinking...
Quite an astonishing thing for a BBC reporter to say, even on his own blog.
Hattip Centre Right.com
* Gordon Brown's continuing habit of turning the question back on David Cameron
* Camerons's tactic of the 'vicious aside'
* Nick Clegg's tactic of two questions on different subjects
* Brown's weak response on FOI and Cameron's demolition in the 5th question
UPDATE: Some people in the comments are drawing an analogy to DVD sales. I understand the point but I think it is misplaced. I have no objection to these programmes being on iTunes so if people want to download them they can. In those terms it is similar to buying a DVD in that you have bought a product. What I object to is being told that the programmes can only be on iPlayer for 7 days for licensing reasons. That is quite clearly not the case. Streaming a programme is very different from downloading one. I do not understand why a programme cannot be streamed more than sevemn days after its transmission. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
* Note, single sourced!
UPDATE: Much enjoyed the appearance. You can see it HERE until 23.00 on 20 Feb. The piece starts about 14 minutes in.
I thought you might be interested in a grossly unfair situation that my
borough council in Surrey is faced with due to the policies of this morally
bankrupt government. Waverley Borough Council is in South West Surrey and is one
of the most affluent boroughs in the UK. However, it also has pockets of
deprivation and the council owns and manages some 5,000 council dwellings
throughout the borough.
Under an iniquitous system devised by this Labour government, nearly half
of Waverley’s rental income from its council housing stock is taken by the
government every year, presumably for redistribution elsewhere in the country
(Labour marginals perhaps?). This will amount to £10.8 million in 2008/9, which
is £2,000 per home or £40 per tenant per week. As a result of this, there is
absolutely no chance that our housing stock will be able to meet the
government’s own Decent Homes Standard, which in effect means that this Labour
government is imposing a grossly unfair tax on the most vulnerable and needy in
The council has already had to cut housing maintenance in the coming
budget, and the Housing Revenue Account has now run out of reserves. Ian
Wright, the Parliamentary under Secretary in the Department of Communities and
Local Government, has acknowledged by letter that he has become increasingly
aware that the system is unpopular and widely perceived as unfair. But all he
promises is a review, with no terms of reference and no timetable. He has
refused to meet with the Leader and Chief Executive of the council. The irony of
this situation is that if these council houses were to be transferred to a
housing trust under LSVT, the government would not take a single penny. Our
tenants have twice voted to remain with the council, and by deciding to remain
with the council this Labour government is penalising them to the tune of more
than £10m a year.
Seriously, the reason why farmers are so anti-badger is that the cases of bovine tuberculosis - which badgers carry and then infect cattle - have risen from 125 to 2,000 a year over the last 14 years. The government stands accused of doing nothing and as a result Hillary Benn was heckled during his speech at the same conference yesterday.
I grew up near Saffron Walden, where the District Council rejoices in the name of Uttlesford. The
A matter of two months later, Mr O'Dell has got himslef a new job as a local government consultant ... advising various local authorities ... wait for it ... cue drumroll ... on their financial affairs! And even better; according to The Sun, one of the councils he will be advising is none other then ... you got there ahead of me ... Uttlesford! Hurrah for Mr O'Dell!
UPDATE: A local journalist has got a quote from Uttlesford. "Mr O'Dell will not be working, directly or indirectly, to offer advice directly or indirectly to Uttlesford District Council now or at any point in the future". He also says the current chief executive is also leaving at the end of this month.
Next they'll be abolishing language oral exams. Er...
Horizon Scanning (HS) is the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely developments, including but not restricted to those at the margins of current thinking and planning. The Horizon Scanning Centre’s (HSC) main aims are to undertake HS for Government and to help Government Departments raise their HS capabilities. In this high profile role, you will be expected to develop the HSC’s vision and direction, leading and creating the best mix of teams and resources. You will continue to build and maintain the high level cross-Government market for strategic futures products and services, working with other relevant centres and cross-Government groups as necessary. You will lead in improving further the evidential and analytical basis for horizon scanning, so that the UK Government is positioned increasingly at the cutting-edge of the field.
No doubt another £100k of our money down the swanny.
Monday, February 18, 2008
After he stood down in 1997 he was careful to leave the stage to his successor David Prior, but when I made clear I would welcome his involvement he seemed to relish a brief return to the political hustings. He said he would like to come out canvassing for a morning and it became clear to me just how revered he was by the North Norfolk electorate. Lady Margaret would join him and watch him enjoy himself from the car, for by that time she was very ill. It obviously gave her great pleasure to see her husband back in the political ring. Ralph enjoyed it so much that he came out several times during the campaign. Many candidates hate it when their predecessors reappear. I didn’t. I knew how popular Ralph was and valued his wise counsel.
It is true to say that they don’t make ‘em like Ralph Howell anymore. It’s rare for a country farmer to go into national politics, and those that do often find it not to their liking. They struggle to make an impact. Ralph Howell never achieved ministerial office, but he gained tremendous respect for his tenacity in defending the interests of North Norfolk. His ideas on ‘Workfare’, where peoples may only receive benefits if they work for them, were twenty years ahead of their time. Ralph would be amused that some of his ideas were taken up by a Labour government, rather than a Conservative one.
I'll be attending Ralph's funeral at Dereham Church on Monday. It's a certainty that it will be packed.
* This article originally appeared in my EDP column on Saturday. Photo credit to EDP.
He reckons that Tony Blair personally ordered the assassination of Princess Diana. He believes the following list of people were involved in the conspiracy. Brace yourselves...
The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Robin Cook, Diana's sister Sarah, the two doctors at the Paris hospital who treated her, Paul Burrell, Sir Paul Condon, Sir John Stevens and Diana' best friend Rosa Monckton.
Most laughably of all, he now reckons his drunk employee Henri Paul had also been paid by Mi6. This rather ignores the fact that he was killed too.
And this is the man who convinced a jury that Neil Hamilton was guilty!
The fact is that there are two people to blame for that crash - and both their surnames are Fayed - Dodi for allowing Henri Paul to drive the car and his father for employing a drunk driver in the first place.
Fayed concocts these ridiculous conspiracy theories in order to mask the guilt he ought to be feeling himself.
Do feel free to join me in my longstanding boycott of the Phoney Pharoah's little grocery store.