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Showing posts from 2006

So.....No Change After Christmas

Christmas has come and gone and left barely a trace of its spiritual impact upon our politicians who have been anxious to get back to normal. Tony Blair is off to the home of yet another celeb for his Christmas holiday (Robin Gibb, ex-Bee Gee this time), while his party chairman, the diminutive motorcycling enthusiast Hazel Blears, has joined a protest against the government of which she is a member.

Now we know that the idea of individual ministerial responsibility lost any basis in reality some years ago, but there was hope that the collective responsibility ideal - all members of the government support the decisions of government, or else resign in order to oppose them - might have continued to have force. Apparenrtly not. Ms. Blears has been demonstrating against the closure of a local hospital A and E department. Very noble, and very local. And very un-collective. And it wouldn't, I suppose, have anything to do with the fact that her seat disappears under new boundary ar…

Lembit: An Apology

I may have occasionally given the impression over the course of the past couple of weeks that I thought Lembit Opik was a lightweight politician of no fixed principles, whose support for successive candidates in Liberal leadership elections was like sounding a death knell, and whose conviction, expressed at a recent conference, that Liberals were flawed but moral was simply laughable.

Clearly, in the light of revelations about his adultery with a Cheeky Girl whilst engaged to a Weather Girl, I owe you and him an apology..........for having been right.

What a twit!

Like Spooks? Here come ‘Rogue Spooks’!

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The BBC’s spy drama Spooks is commonly considered to be excellent – right up there with top American series like 24, but inevitably a little lower than West Wing. Well the BBC is keen to maintain the Spooks audience reach and attach it to BBC 3, so it is commissioning a spin-off series, ‘Rogue Spooks’. According to BBC Online,

'Rogue Spooks', the drama's working title, will follow young MI5 recruits who "follow a different rule book".

Can’t wait, although it would be nice to think the BBC could commission completely new drama as well. I have an idea for a series that follows the political career of a dynamic school teacher, clearly headed for the top but for the actions of a few disenchanted voters in the West Midlands. It’s got real potential I think.

Ministerial Responsibility

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The doctrine of ministerial responsibility states that ministers are ultimately responsible for the actions of their departments, even if they themselves are not directly involved. It is a doctrine that has been battered out of recognition in recent years – it is rare to find ministers resigning as a result of ministerial decision making, never mind that of anyone more junior. It may just, however, be re-emerging in a different form.

Geoff Hoon was the Defence Secretary who helped take us in to the Iraq war. He was also the minister responsible for all aspects of the armed forces, including their equipping. The British army, notoriously, was thoroughly ill-equipped when it was sent out on yet another dangerous foreign mission by this government. Now, Hoon may be called to give evidence at the inquest into the death of British tank commander Sgt. Steve Roberts. Roberts was killed shortly after being asked to give up his body armour because of shortages. Hoon apparently took eight weeks …

Girls Aloud to Spread the Word

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Tony Blair may now be feeling the firm hand of the law on his sweaty collar, the Stevens Report may be telling us what everyone except Mohammed Al-Fayed has always known about the Diana Crash, but the big news today is in fact the foray into politics by the ladies' popular music combo Girls Aloud!

They've told politicians to stop 'trying to be cool'; Ms. Cole has said she doesn't fancy David Cameron (he said he fancied her the most when asked in a recent interview); and they have exclusively revealed they once met Gordon Brown.....but it might, on reflection, have been John Reid, they're not sure.

They are anti-war, pro-grammar school and pro-high taxation. And they think politicians should stick to trying to run the country while bands like, well, themselves, go into schools to spread the word. That way, politics need never be boring. As band member Nicola Roberts said, watching politicians can be dull - "It's boring. No 18-year-old wants to watch Gordo…

The Daly Planet [sigh!]

Mr. Daly is a regular poster of comments on these pages, so it is good to see that he has finally decided the comment box is too small for all he has to say, and has established his own blog. With a parody blog having been established almost instantaneously, Mr. Daly is learning the truth of the fact that those who stick their heads above the parapet are immediately susceptible to the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism - and Mr. Daly doesn't just stick his head above the parapet, he veritably strolls along its battlements. Ah well, we need opinion and argument, far better than apathetic acknowledgement that nothing will change, so good luck to him. His blog is listed in the links at the side.

Does Cameron Need Policies?

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Have just finished watching a Newsnight interview where some right-wing loon called Jon Gaunt, who presents a radio show and writes for, erm, the Sun, has been given plenty of air time to attack a Cameroonie about the Tories' lack of policies. Paxman, having earlier demolished the Labour minister Phil Woolas, was particularly ineffective in this exchange, but so too was the Cameroonie - MP Ed Vaizey. Gaunt ranted on for a while about the lack of clear policies coming from Cameron, but in fact it turned out that what he really meant was the lack of good old fashioned right-wing moral and social fascism that served the Conservatives so well in the last two elections.

Surprisingly, Vaizey took him at face value - allowing him to confuse his right-wing urges for some principled stand about having actual policies. Instead, Vaizey should have taken him to task for sheer humbug. The absence of policies charge is wearing thin. Cameron is staking out a range of positions but, sensibly for a…

Gordon's Snap Election?

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One of the controversial powers of a prime minister is the ability to call an election whenever they want. We may think we're electing five year parliaments, but not if the premier of the day prefers to go earlier. The usual reason for this - as exercised by Thatcher and Blair - is to assure a victory while polls are high, instead of waiting for the unpredictability of another year.

There is another reason, and it's being discussed at the moment. All three parties are preparing for a possible snap election as early as next year on the grounds that Gordon Brown, if elected as new Labour leader, might want to capitalise on the novelty and not wait for disillusionment to set in. He would also be keen to get his own mandate.

It's an odd call this, as on the one hand it seems the very essence of democracy that a leader elected by a party should then seek a wider mandate. Our parliamentary system, however, doesn't operate like this. We don't elect prime minsisters, we elec…

Fraudulence and Insight

I hope to put a longer piece here about today's conference in time, but for the moment a few quick summary thoughts.
1. The brains are in the media rather than parliament - the most interesting analyses came from Andrew Neil and Matthew D'Ancona (despte D'Ancona's initial shakiness when confronted with an audience of young people!), while the parliamentary representatives, Opik and Johnson, were weak and superficial.
2. Boris Johnson is no longer funny. His routine today was tragic - no other word for it. This man has forsaken any interest in a serious political career because he is obsessed by his own celebrity, and that requires him to do the bumbling Boris act more or less continuously!
3. Lembit Opik is still a crowd pleaser. He showed this weakness at Bristol, where he and I were on opposite sides of a freedom of speech issue (he as union president, me as vice-chairman of the Tories) - he hasn't changed.
4. Good old tub thumping politics is a joy - the Resp…

Eco-Fundamentalism!

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With nearly everyone accepting the arguments of climate change, and the green agenda being taken up by every and any politician like there's no tomorrow - which, I guess, there isn't really, if they're right! - it is refreshing to hear a leading politician lambast the 'green alarmists'. If only for a change of tune. And yes, he's really an ex-politician, since we're talking about Nigel Lawson, the good lord who was once Margaret Thatcher's reforming Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Early in November, in a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies, Lawson attacked many of the green scientists as 'eco-fundamentalists', said warmer climates would in any case be good for some countries and that we can surely all cope with a little bit of rising ocean level. He's weighed in again this evening, in an interview on the web channel 18 doughtystreet.com, describing the Stern Report as 'fraudulent', and a new 'dodgy dossier' for Blair to wield…

Good, Bad or Indifferent....Which is Cameron?

The consensus view amongst the commentators - who, of course, bear little if any relation to, you know, actual people who vote - is that Cameron has worked wonders in changing the image of the Tory Party, but has of course got nowhere with policy. You can almost hear the snigger. Image is easy - especially with a highly paid PR man, who just happens to be an old Eton mate, at your side (step forward Steve Hilton). But policy....well, that's a whole new ball game.

In fact, it isn't true that Mr. Cameron has been entirely policy lite. He couldn't change the image of the Tory party without dealing with its recent ideological heritage, much of which he has felt compelled to dump. BBC Online's Nick Assinder admitted as much in his article:

" So he is for the environment, bicycles, windmills and internet blogs. He supports the NHS, the poorest in society, minorities of all sorts and even misunderstood hoodies.
He is not any longer for tax cuts before public spending, …

Iain Dale's Diary: Quotes of the Day

Iain Dale's Diary: Quotes of the Day

Iain Dale's is another of the plethora of Tory/right-wing blogs out there (I really must start reading a few of the leftie ones); he has cobbled together a number of entertaining quotes here though. Click on the link and see whether any are wall-worthy - we need some more!

Cameron Watch - more revealing interviews

As David Cameron approaches his first anniversary as leader, his interview quotient is increasing, and we can expect lots of "Cameron - A Year On" analyses from overpaid political hacks desperate to fill their columns. The Conservative Home website carries lengthy comment on a couple of recent profiles (from the Telegraph today, and the Guardian yesterday) which are worth reading here. That particular website is very tuned in to Conservative opinion, and does not give a particularly favourable overview of Cameron's performance. Read it and see.

The Mail at its Worst

Still like the Daily Mail? A brief comment about one of their stories is on the myspace blog.

Pressure Group Presentations

Thanks for the pressure group presentations....although I'm not sure we should be extending that to Martyn for his crackly and frankly incoherent mobile phone intervention. When he's been with us a little longer he'll work out how we do things...

Meanwhile, the Red Squirrels were fascinating, and a suitably bizarre obscure group without which no pressure group presentation would be complete; Greenpeace always offers plenty of food for thought as one of the most influential international pressure groups of our times, although I would have welcomed more discussion of their varied tactics, especially the antics of the Rainbow Warrior; CND were a huge influence in the 80s, although largely a failure, and whilst I have my doubts about the overall quality of the presentation, I would like to thank that group for drawing our attention to the extraordinary delusionary quote from CND's current chairman about the contemporary influence of communism; and finally, what can I say a…

Quick Updates

A few quick updates before venturing to put on some longer pieces. The stories worth investigating further are that Lords Reform will not, apparently, include removing hereditary or Life peers, so one wonders what, precisely will be the point of the reform. Different arcane procedures for debates, perhaps, maybe to give red squirrel defenders more time to outline their case?! Education, Education, Education is back as the PM's favourite mantra, this time with his announcement that A-levels will be made harder (by, erm introducing an A* grade - and that worked so well for GCSE) but we can do the International Baccalaureate instead if we want. And a Tory MP is urging Mr. Blair to apologise for Henry VIII's treatment of his wives....hmmm, suspect the whole apology thing might be being mocked there! However, since it's been started, I would be fascinated to hear of other apologies people think could be made! I certainly think Blair should apologise to all of us on behalf…

The Tosser Within

Another bit of triangulation from the Tories. 'The Tosser Within' campaign launched by the Conservatives has received considerable publicity, so judge its effectivenes for yourselves - the hilarious video is here, on a website called 'Sort-It'! Hmmm. The political parties themselves, of course, know all about debt; sadly, the rest of us can't follow their example by calling on the services of a few preposterously wealthy benefactors to solve the problem.

The Devolution Dilemma

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Every major speaker at this week's Scottish Labour Conference (yes it does exist), has made strong attacks on the Scottish National Party. John Reid, this morning, adopted his best tone of patronising outrage when he laid into the SNP, while Gordon Brown and the rising star Douglas Alexander (yet, I agree, to achieve worldwide name recognition) have also stuck the boot in.

Why? Well, apart from the fact that it is, I suppose, customary to attack one's opponents, all of these very Scottish ministers have got the wind up because of the latest twists in the devolution debate. As the parties ready themselves for the Scottish and Welsh elections next May, the SNP has led the calls to take devolution one step further, to outright independence. What must be worrying the Labour high command even more is the fact that, according to at least one news poll this morning, while 52% of Scots want independence, 58% of English respondents supported the idea. No fools they, as they look to be d…

Where is Cameron Going?

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It's been a busy week, as ever, for David Cameron. While one of his policy 'wonks', and an MP to boot, raises the prospect of Polly Toynbee as the new Tory pin up girl - thus sending dozens of Tory majors into heart attack mode - he himself has been visiting Darfur, out-Blairing Blair (on his own foreign visit to Afghanistan) in the compassion stakes and getting more front page pictures.

Where is he going? What is his strategy? We still see little sign of concrete policy, but we see lots of imagery and hear tantalising little sound bites that keep indicating a genuine sea-change in the position of the modern Conservative party. Well, the Sunday Times today carries an interesting 'Focus' report on the new Tory Boy. It concludes that Cameron is carrying out 'triangulation' - a deliberate attempt to be counter-intuitive in order to challenge preconceptions about the Conservatives - and it parallels his journey with the one that Blair took prior to the 1997 elec…

Tories Look To Toynbee

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Polly Toynbee is the Guardian's Social Affairs commentator. This means she reports and comments on that most left-wing of topics - social affairs - for that most liberal of papers, the Guardian. Extraordinary, then, to hear the Tories' policy chief, Greg Barker, hail her as a model for Tory thought. Ms. Toynbee has for long been the bugbear of bugbears for Tories - a left-wing harpie of the worst kind. Now they're asked to love her and embrace her ideas. What on earth is going on?

You can read the BBC story here, but in essence this is yet another move by the refashioned Tory Party to rediscover its One Nation credentials, and that is always a dramatic shock when it has spent so long hunkering down in right-wing fantasy land. Disraeli was doubtless no less shocking to many Tory contemporaries when he advocated a dramatic extension of the franchise, and radical social measures, to ultimate electoral advantage. Or Macmillan, embracing the consensus of the welfare state and be…

Thatcher's Downfall

November 22nd. is the anniversary of the fall of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, one of the most dramatic political events of modern times. Relive the events, and in particular the extraordinary speech by Sir Geoffrey Howe in the Commons, in this video on the Youtube site. Anyone who doubts the significance of parliament will see here its seminal importance as the arena in which the most formidable British leader since Churchill met her doom. Thatcher never recovered from the Howe speech, or the loss of confidence and credibility that it engendered amongst her parliamentary colleagues. Its immediate consequence was a leadership challenge from Michael Heseltine, which ultimately resulted in Thatcher's forced resignation; "treachery, with a smile on its face".

Website Updated

The recent power point presentations are now on the website. Go to the AS Update page.

Lords Reform

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The Chairman of the Joint Committee looking into Lords reform has spoken out against the idea of a hybrid second chamber. Lords reform featured in the Queen's Speech - not for the first time - and Commons Leader Jack Straw is said to favour a 50% elected second chamber, and 50% appointed. Lord Cunningham, chairman of the reform committee, says he sees no value in such a halfway house. Either stay with a wholly appointed Lords, or go for a wholly elected one. Straw's solution is the worst of both possible worlds.

But then of course it would be. Jack Straw is the man who, as Foreign Secretary, sleep-walked us into the war against Iraq. Now he's back, applying similarly ill thought through ideas to the parliamentary reform agenda. The man has no idea what he wants from a second chamber, except some vague idea that perhaps it should have a democratic element. The bankruptcy of his thought process is well pointed up by Cunningham; if you want democracy, then go for it without he…

Website Updates

Aftab has rightly taken me to task for failing to update the geocities website with the recent presentations. Geocities is unfortunately not accessible in school, and I have to date neglected to email the presentation files so that I can update it at home. This will change - an update by mid-week is on the way! In the meantime, update your knowledge by visiting the tutor2u website, with its vast array of presentations, blog updates etc.

More Results from Tory Primaries

The 'open primary' is producing some interesting results for the Tory Party, in particular this evening, the result in the Essex seat of Witham has been to effectively deselect sitting MP (and only elected in 2005) James Brokenshire in favour of Priti Patel, a right-wing Asian who boosts, in one go, the Tories' ethnic and female quota. That might seem to be a good thing, although Patel brings her own baggage with her; as a former Referendum Party activist she is a stark reminder that perhaps the Tory Party grassroots have no intention of deserting the eurosceptic and right-wing bunker in which they sheltered from electoral victory for so long!

Tory Primaries

BBC News went to one of the new 'open primaries' being held by the Tory Party to select some of their candidates in winnable seats. The idea of the open primary is that anyone can come along and vote for the next Tory candidate, thus giving them a wider base of support than if they had just been chosen by the party gerontocracy. An earlier primary in Battersea produced a win for the excellent Jane Ellison, a forthright One Nation Tory who can expect to be much more in tune with the new Tory mood than her many detractors (she was vilified on the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog).

The BBC, meanwhile, went along to Watford to watch a similar event. Television images, of course, are misleading, but I have to say that experiment sounds as if it should be politically exciting, I didn't see much evidence of that in the Watford case. Hardly a huge meeting, attendees looking as if they might be pretty well the party membership and not much more, and a rather uninspiring bunch of can…

Knacker's Calling, Friedman Isn't

A couple of major stories for very different reasons appear to have broken this evening. John Yates of the Met has indicated that the investigation into cash for honours is reaching a significant stage, with his claim that "significant and valuable material" has been obtained. Blair apparently has his defence ready!

Also today, the death of New Right economics guru Milton Friedman has been announced, so plenty of retrospective material for the A2 students to pore over can be expected in the next few days.

Finally, French politics is calling - tonight the socialist party decides whether to nominate Segolene Royal as their first woman candidate for president. She's popular, and could win the presidency, but is considered to be very shallow on policy. Didn't do Blair any harm!
Newsnight Weather Reports - Paxman resists

Paxman doesn't reserve his arsenal of sarcasm for politicians. He famously hated having to give out weather forescasts which, briefly, were put in place of the business forecast at the end of Newsnight. Here, courtesy again of Have I Got News For You, was his response to producers who thought the weather was a good thing to end the programme with...
Michael Howard on Newsnight

Well, after today's showing of Paxman at his insufferable best, here's the infamous Howard interview, but as shown on Have I Got News For You, back in the days when they had the same host each week.

Blair's Last Opening

There were 29 new Bills unveiled in the Queen's Speech today, thus showing that whatever else he's lost (his job, his credibility, his war with Iraq, his war with Gordon Brown) Tony Blair hasn't lost his appetite for legislating. David Cameron criticised the new agenda - and Tony Blair's last Queen's Speech, for pandering to the 'politics of fear' but that rather misses the point. Tony Blair's entire administration has been about fear. Fear of the evil Tories, fear of the truth, fear of terrorists, fear of his own backbenchers..... If he can't cater to the politics of fear, then what can he do? I suppose there is one fear left...the fear of life after Number 10. What on earth does a former Prime Minister do? Margaret Thatcher has spent the years since being ousted going slowly madder and madder, pondering too much on treachery ('with a smile on its face') and casting her long, spectral shadow over all of her successors bar the present…

Are all bad laws European?

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ID Cards seem like a bad idea overall, and they haven't been imposed on us by Europe. Quite apart from the civil liberties issue, which should concern all liberals of whatever hue, this government has a rotten record on introducing ICT into any of its departments. The BBC reports today that the civil servant charged with introducing this dreadful policy has been saying how important it is that we have ID cards in order to safeguard civil liberties. I did wonder about his truly Orwellian logic, but gave up the ghost on his defence when I reached this comment - that 'the general public supports the scheme and are frustrated that it is taking so long"!! Oh yeah, we're all out there begging for ID cards and an increase in government control. Anyone want to join the next march asking for the suspension of individual liberties?

How much was your peergae?

The DHB's concluding question to his lordship on Monday generated a few laughs, but hinted at the wider and certainly serious issue of peerages for sale. Guido Fawkes follows this story regularly on his blog with some glee, but there is no doubt that while Labour looks thoroughly tarnished, neither the Tories nor the Liberals come out of it particularly well either. What's more, it is grist to the mill of those who would oppose a nominated second chamber, which is a tragedy, given the many positive virtues of having a House of Lords that is not, on the whole, in hock to the government or the short term campaigns of the tabloid press.

A Eurosceptic Speaks!

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My apologies for the rather long gap between posts - unforgivable, apparently, in the really committed blogging community! However, the day on which we have a bona fide eurosceptic personality (google him if you don't believe me - he has some modest fame!) visit and speak to us seems a good opportunity to update.

Lord Pearson gave a perfectly sound eurosceptic case. Europe binds us with plentiful, not always necessary, laws and takes loads of our money. It's been the mantra of the euroscpetic for years. Sadly, though, it was ultimately communicated with too little dynamism and a voice projection that desperately needed a microphone. I was a little surprised, since at lunch (the good lord himself, HM, GG, Stembridge, Manville and me) he had proved to be quite enthusiastic, and certainly argumentative when I suggested one or two challenges to his position. Ultimately, though, his case was unexciting and mundane, and unlikely to enthuse L6th formers to become prophets for euroscep…

Comment Moderation

There are some good, useful and vigorous comments on these posts, and I hope they will continue. Anonymous handles or pseusdonyms are all fine, but I hope we can avoid outright malicious impersonation. I have turned the comment moderation on for the time being to preserve the integrity of the comments.

A Policeman's Lot is Not a Happy One...

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....not, at any rate, if you happen to be a copper in modern day, Blairite Britain. I have added a link to the blog of one PC 'David Copperfield', an ordinary policeman in a pretty average town, so he says, whose regular updates should fill us with horror. It was his article in the Mail (here) that first brought him to my attention, and no, don't ignore it just because of where it's been published. He has now published a book of his journal entries, and you don't have to be a fascist right-winger to think that, on the whole, we'd prefer policeman to be out there, sort of catching criminals, rather than updating paperwork on the latest ludicrous targets.

Cameron Criticised

David Cameron's decision to support the SNP/Plaid Cymru motion calling for an immediate inquiry into the Iraq war has drawn criticism from one of his own senior MPs. Quentin Davies, a former Defence spokesman, has outlined the view that any inquiry should only be held after the war, and that to have decided to join the call for one now was irresponsible and folly of the first order. Daves is a thoughtful and independent minded Tory MP whose views can hardly be disregarded lightly, especially since on this subject he echoes a reasonably widely held view amongst Tories.

On Iraq, however, Cameron is faced with a difficult position. The Tories supported this war, and can't easily simply call for withdrawal. In trying to formulate a coherent stand on the war, they are hamstrung by their failure to take a more strategic view at the time (not surprisingly, Ken Clarke was one of the minority of Tory MPs who opposed the war at the time, thus showing again that he had a much clearer long…

The Coronation of King Gordon

Well, well. It looks increasingly as if Gordon Brown will become Labour leader - and thus Prime Minister - simply by the mere process of existing! Peter Hain, the oleaginous Labour front-bencher who is one of several pygmies to have declared for the Labour deputy leadership race, and who fancies himself as a born-again Brownite, is the most recent Labour figure to have suggested that there will be no contest (BBC News story here). Hain tries to have it both ways, by announcing that he would, of course, much rather there was a contest (as, he says, would his chum 'Gordon'), but then lambasts the Blairites for trying, in his words, to 'contrive' a contest. Hmmm. A typical New Labour fix!

I'm not sure that it is necessarily a bad thing that there will be no contest. Conventional wisdom has it that there should be a battle of ideas, etc etc, but that is surely for the General Election, when the public can actually get involved. One expects, on the whole, a change of lea…

Humble Correction

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Hmmm. Well I hate to suggest that I may have written in haste, but on re-reading the exchange at PMQ's just before the Speaker interrupted David Cameron, I am bound to admit that Cameron does not appear to have mentioned the Labour Party in his question, thus rendering the Speaker Martin's rebuke somewhat redundant. I suspect Martin was seeking to correct Cameron for what he thought he was going to say, rather than what he actually did say, which is a rather careless, and hasty, mistake for someone as august as the Speaker to make. There are numerous suggestions going round that Martin was abandoning his neutrality to act as a Labour partisan, but I don't think this fits the bill at all. Anyway, you can make up your own minds by looking at the exchange yourselves - or reading it. And my main point still stands - Cameron needs to buck up his ideas about how he uses PMQ's and what it says about him to the country.

Parliamentary Pugilism

Today's scenes in the House of Commons at Prime Minister's Question Time seem to have been rowdier than normal. David Cameron is normally pretty assured in these exchanges - must be that Eton training, giving him a slight edge over the equally expensive Fettes training received by Blair - but today he fell foul of the Speaker, Glaswegian Michael Martin (who came up from a very different background to the two pugilists he was refereeing). As Cameron asked Blair who he would like to see as leader of the Labour Party, Speaker Martin intervened, ruling the question out of order, as it was about the internal politics of the Labour Party - cue outrage from the assembled Tories, with Cameron himself nonplussed and almost willing to challenge the Speaker further. Only an excess of Speakers' latitude over Cameron's slightly re-phrased question (this time he asked who Blair would like to see as the next Prime Minister) saved the Leader of the Opposition from being thrown out …

The Revolt That Never Was

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In the end, it was a bit of a damp squib. For all the talk of nervous whips applying thumbscrews to Labour MPs and ministers being called back from foreign parts, a mere 12 Labour MPs in the end rebelled against the government in today's debate on the Iraq War - nothing in comparison to previous rebellions which have seen the government defeated a couple of times. Called by the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and reluctantly supported by the Tories, the Commons motion was proposing an inquiry into how we went to war in Iraq. The Conservatives actually favour waiting for such an inquiry until after the war, whilst Labour naturally favour not having one at all.

Or at least they did.

Although the government won the debate today, Defence Secretary Des Browne appears to have promised an inquiry after all, in comments made to television broadcasters. As ever, the government's message is confused and subject to late changes, and heaven forbid they should provide either consistency or clarity.

As f…

Holiday Time and No Blogging!

It's half term. I'm still recovering from CCF camp - and reading the wrong lesson at the wedding of two very good friends! - and then I'm away again. So, no blogging until my return. There may be a brief CCF update on the myspace site though. Don't hold your breath, and see you after half term!

My Space

I have added some new entries to the Myspace blog. Just if you're interested...

A Crime A Day...So much for freedom!

Well we've been covering liberalism and its implications in the U6 ideology lessons, and there have been no less vigorous debates about the nature of a free society in allegedly liberal Britain than in the L6 set as well. In its classical form, liberalism is about the freedom of the individual and assumes that freedom to be an absence from any external constraints (a view later characterised by Isaiah Berlin as negative freedom). The modern liberal, of course, has trouble with this, for he wants to promote freedom by promoting the 'potential' of the individual, and on the assumption that such potential usually requires a lift, he comes up with the notion of government intervention via such forms as the welfare state (positive freedom). Now no-one would dispute that these are noble notions, but the modern liberal problem remains that the more you increase the power of the state the more you compromise the freedom of the individual. The two exist as opposite forces to each o…
CWF 30th Anniversary Thatcher Dinner

Enjoy this. The Thatcherite pressure group Conservative Way Forward's tribute video to The Maggie! Great memories, distinctly cheesy patriotic music, and a fabulous cameo from the failed socialist revolutionary Arthur Scargill, who can be heard calling for the take-over of the media! Watch and (a) enjoy, or (b) get infuriated [Conor!].

Politics Conference with Boris, George Galloway et al

Just to let everyone know that the conference I mentioned at the end of the lesson is definitely on - we have permission to go!!

Co-sponsored by the Spectator and Philip Allan Updates, the conference is on December 7th. and features Boris Johnson and George Galloway, Matthew D'Ancona (editor of the Spectator), Andrew Neill, George Osborne (Cameron's mate and shadow Chancellor if you didn't know!) and Liberal MP Lembit Opik.

We need to book fast, so as many as possible please bring cheques in on Monday. Make them out to 'Sutton Grammar School', £15.

Self Censored

A great pity in many ways, but half-assed MP Sion Simon has now deleted the video of his cringe-inducing piece of 'satire' aping Webcameron. So no more can we upload that well thought out comment "Want to sleep with my wife? Come on down, then. Want my kids? No problem". We'll just have to laugh at the memory. Apparently, though, Simon gave a self-destroying interview on Sky News which has been posted here.

NB The MP who actually posted the video on YouTube, Tom Watson, has apologised 'unreservedly'!

Another NB Watson and Simon were the ring-leaders in the Brownite attempt to get Blair to resign before party conference. And we wonder why it failed? With friends like these, Brown needs to be very worried!

Sporting Glory

I see 'Sporting Glory' managed to sow a bit more dissension yesterday, although to be fair, the more controversial it is the more readable it is. Nonetheless, is it fair to blame Mr. Blunt for the late night socialising habits of his First XI players? And was Mr. Waller unfairly being made a scapegoat? And I noticed at least one match report being sold completely separately to the main paper! Oh, and as for Mr. Daly's protestations that the editors are a united team, I couldn't help hearing one of his co-editors claim that he did all of the work. Hmmmm. Just like a normal media operation really!!!

A Video To Regret

I doubt many people had heard of Sion Simon until today, for all that he's a former journalist (he was the tame New Labourite who used to write for the Spectator and the Telegraph) and now a Labour MP. Perhaps his main claim to fame until recently was his blind obedience to the cult of Blair, until he realised it was coming to an end and almost indecently switched his allegiance to Gordon Brown. Secretly, however, Sion Simon is a comedian. A satirist of the highest calibre. A guy with a humorous cutting edge that'll have you dripping with laughter.

Or maybe not.

Maybe he's just the most embarrassing person to inhabit Labour's parliamentary party at the moment, for Sion has hit the news with his truly appalling attempt to take off David Cameron's 'webcameron'. Simon's toe-curling bit of 'comedy' has been posted on youtube for all to, erm, enjoy. And since everyone found out, he's been spending lots of time explaining why this is a genuinely fu…

Media Wars

A new media venture began tonight - ironically on the day that Google announced its takeover of another unexpected but huge internet success, the Youtube site. The new venture is a web-based tv channel - 18 Doughty Street - which broadcasts politics shows each evening only on the web. The avowed aim of the Doughty Street founders is to challenge old media. Two of the leading spirits behind the venture - Tim Montgomerie and Iain Dale - are both prominent Conservative bloggers (their sites are linked at the side) who believe that the blogosphere is increasingly able to challenge the 'established' media agenda.

It is too early to see whether the Doughty Street channel will succeed on the founders' own terms - i.e. effectively challenge the dominance of mainstream media as our principal source of news and analysis. Their programmes, on tonight's evidence, are chatty (well, it's talk tv after all), and are very much an audio-visual version of the presenters' blogs, b…

The BBC catches up...

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After the news had been heavily trailed on the internet yesterday, it was good to see the BBC finally catch up with the story that John Reid may well have thrown in the towel when it comes to challenging an apparently unbeatable Gordon Brown. Even Nick Assinder's conclusion (his story on BBC News is here) follows one of the Westminster blogs by suggesting it is now John Hutton's turn to raise the Blairite flag against Brown. In fact, it looks less and less likely that such a thing will happen. And especially once parliament resumes, and Brown starts to exert his undoubted dominance over a cowed parlaimentary party, it does look as if we may be headed for a coronation. There is little in policy terms to divide potential Blairite candidates from Brown, so it boils down to personality, and one of the givens about Brown's personality is that he (a) bears grudges and (b) is ferocious in hounding opponents. Want to stay in government, with a nice salary and ministerial car? Then…

Reid - No Challenge to Brown

According to online magazine the First Post, John Reid has privately assured Gordon Brown that he will not challenge him for the Labour leadership. Reid seems to have worked out that he simply would not have the support - which is probably true as most of those who want him to run seem to be Tory commentators trying to stir up dissension - and that the best way of staying in his post for more than one more year is to make peace with the next almost-certain leader.

In the same article, the First Post notes that Brown used the weekend's Cheltenham book Festival to talk ideas and humanity. He also apparently ruled out bringing in a written constitution. Both Brown and Cameron, interestingly, have both been flying flags about constitutional change, to the effect that they want to strengthen parliament and limit the powers of the executive. But then, politicians who aren't Prime Minister are often interested in that sort of change - until they reach the highest office themselve…

Cameron at 40

Hmmmm...so Cameron's hit the big 40 then. It is extraordinarily irritating to see these slightly younger people - Cameron, Abramovich - achieving rather more than you!! Cameron would have been in the year below me at school and I would duly have looked down on him and sneered in a patronising way (a habit I have of course long grown out of!). Now he's leader of the Tories and the possible next but one Prime Minister. It is, however, worth reading this article from the BBC news site which suggests that we can interpret Cameron's political vision - if that's not too grand a word - by looking at the concerns of your average 40 year old. Quite amusing. If you like that sort of thing. And are 40. And have kids.

Murder, Mayhem and the Mob - Rome's political lessons.

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When we discuss the exercise of democracy, we tend to look back to the example of Athens, but to look at the exercise of politics by the demos in a more rumbustuous fashion, and in due tension with ideas of government by an elite on behalf of the people, we could do worse than look at the example of the Roman Republic. I was struck again by the nature of the extraordinary political system that was the Republic when I saw tonight's episode of the BBC's 'Ancient Rome'. It was following the career of rabble rouser and Tribune of the People Tiberius Gracchus, who campaigned for land reform on behalf of the plebs, but whose campaign exposed the huge divisions in Roman society and threatened the republic itself with civil war. Gracchus drew his power from the mob - and his position, Tribune of the People, had been specifically designed to placate the plebs by offering them a magistracy that would look after them. But no matter how noble the aims, the mob can easily be turned…

Conference Thoughts Part 2 - Labour and Conservative

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Much ink has, of course, already been spilt about the Labour Conference. In the event, given all of the tension and the intense speculation surrounding Blair’s likely departure date, it was, for those of hoping for a real political splat, a bit of a damp squib! Gordon Brown confirmed that he will never be a particularly inspiring leader, for all his undoubted worthiness and political weight; John Prescott mangled the English language one more time and produced the startling revelation that, no, he would not be deputy leader in a year’s time – so thanks for clearing that up John; and Tony Blair did indeed put on a bravura performance in his last conference speech as leader, hamming up the emotion, choking on his own studied sincerity, and getting them all leaping in the aisles. Can’t really see Gordon ever doing that, but every time we feel a little disillusioned with the Iron Chancellor’s lack of emotion let’s just pause for a moment, and remember that if he had been Prime Minister ov…

Conference Thoughts Part 1

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The Conference season normally provides the first real taste of politics in action each school year. As the parties gather at their respective venues for their annual bout of soul-searching and exhibitionism, we get the chance to analyse their policies and their leaders, not to mention take the temperature of the parties themselves and try to find out once more just what makes them tick. And this year they were, in a way, historic conferences. Two of the parties had their new leaders addressing them for the first time, and one had their old leader addressing them for the last time, so what conclusions might we draw this year?

Well, the Liberals started us off with Ming’s big chance to shine and, er, he didn’t. Having been under fire virtually since his election as leader for being hesitant, unexciting and unsure of himself, this was his chance to regain some mastery. After all, he may not be very good at dominating the House of Commons, but at least he should be able to dominate his ow…

Battersea Tories - A political footnote

Last week the Battersea Conservatives held an 'open primary' to select their next parliamentary candidate. This is a novel idea - for British politics at any rate - in which anyone who is a registered voter can come along to the hustings and vote for their preferred candidate. The idea being, of course, to ensure a candidate with wider appeal than just to the local Tory activists. It is open to manipulation by those who hate you, I suppose, but the Battersea Tories largely prevented this by offering a slate of four candidates, any of whom would be a decent choice. The eventual candidate chosen, Jane Ellison, had plenty of experience as a campaigner, and a political position on the centre left of the party (yes, she's a former TRG activist!). This may well have explained her victory in the open primary, and ensure a decent chance of ousting the sitting Labour MP, Martin Linton, sitting on a majority of just 153!

The right-wing tendency hated the whole process, and parti…

What If.....?

The last member of the old U6 politics set is about to head off to uni. This would, of course, be Pierpaolo Barrett – as a future luminary of Oxford (along with Peter Wright) he only needs to be there for about 10 weeks a year. How that place gets its reputation I don’t know. Nevertheless, we met up, chatted politics, and tried to predict the future, which is where these thoughts come from.

Everyone says how foolish it is to try and predict political developments, and then goes right on ahead to do precisely that. Why? Because it sheds some light on our current political plight. So here are some of the futurist options for the British political scene.

Scenario 1: ‘Dave’ Cameron wins the next election by a small majority over a Gordon Brown led Labour party. Brown, as predicted, failed to connect with the British – and especially English – public, thus enjoying his triumph as PM for only a short time, and the Liberal Democrats, as ever, failed to make any further headway – even losing a …

New Tories....New Gimics

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As Labour ups and leaves Manchester, a pretty successful conference behind it, a rumbustuous future still ahead, the Conervative Cameroonies are on their way to Bournemouth. Just to give them a bit of extra momentum, most papers and news organisations today are weighing in with the fact that Cameron's lead in the polls has slipped drastically and that it is because people don't know what he stands for. Which is unfair because he clearly stands for getting in to power, and doing nice things for the environment. However, this week is an important time for Cameron, especially as the man he models himself on - Tony Blair - did so triumphantly, if rather hollowly, at his own conference.
The Tories have got some big hitters, none bigger than American Senator John McCain; Labour had past president Bill Clinton, the Tories have got possible future president McCain - now there's a nice irony. They have also apparently got a lot of new gizmos and interactivity - just to counter those…
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In the Beginning...

Welcome to the world of the blogosphere. I mean, anyone who's anyone nowadays - and lots of people who aren't - have a blog!

This may be a better way of updating on current news stories for the sgs politics set than trying to change the website all of the time! And I have a couple of months to road-test it before anyone is going to read it.

So - really - welcome to the sgs politics blog!! By Mr. Marshall. With occasional comments from languid students if they can be bothered and if they have the knowledge!