Showing posts from November, 2006

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

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?

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

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

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?

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!

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...

....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

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 …