Sunday, December 31, 2006
  Can you inject elections?
I just love an election. What even if it is a local election. Yes. On the other side of the Atlantic? Even better. This one looks like it could be a corker. The New York state senate is the only level of government in the NY state in the control of the Republicans. The new Democrat governor Eliot Spitzer has appointed the Republican State Senator Michael Balboni as his new Homeland security Tzar so his marginal seat is up for a by election. Should be a humdinger.
  A correspondent writes
I do enjoy getting correspondence in my inbox (willparbury[@] Some of it is bizarre, some of it, like medicines, I should be getting from a doctor not an email. But some of it is actually rather thought provoking such as this snippet below.

I read that with the exception of Norway, the quality of democracy is in inverse proportion to the quantity of oil owned by any given country. The simple thesis was that oil money allowed rulers to rule without having to gain consent for taxation. I thought this a fairly credible notion, considering that British Parliamentary democracy (such as we still have) was to a large extent brought into existence as part of resisting tax demands. The Americans famously argued pretty much the same with “no taxation without representation”, too.

I wonder is this correct. Certainly oil companies have to do business in some pretty dodgy parts of the world and oil may be a factor in the governance in some states but saying that the UK is an oil producer yet this is not a factor in mainstream politics. OK the SNP but they don't count. There must be a PhD in there for someone at least, if not a professorship so in the spirit of Mike Ion tell us what you think.

My thoughts on oil or more related to the oil importers than the producers. I think that there is a prima facie case which argues that if a country has a resonable amount of power in the international system say the US or China and they are an energy importer as these two countries are then there foreign policy will be influenced by the need to secure energy supplies.
  New international super union
We are living in an era of Globalisation. Don't be alarmed by that. It is a process that has been going on for at least the last couple of hundred years if not before. Recently however the forces of capital, business, the financial markets, have been using globalisation to their advantage most.

The forces of Labour, the trade unions, progressive political parties and the political dimensions of the international system have been behind the curve compared with global capitalism. This is hugely important as globalisation will play a very large part in how the world will be shaped in the coming century and it is imperative that our side of the debate is fully enacted by using the processes of globalisation to benefit people just as much as capital.

So I very much welcome this news in the guardian that the trade unions are getting their act together and starting to work more internationally, although it has to be said I think amicus already operates in Ireland.

I can see this expanding fairly quickly to take in other unions especially in the english speaking world. I think the language barrier is more important than many people realise but that should not stop the full potential of this development. The really bold move would be if links could be forged with trade unions in a country like India as this would see the forces of labour acting on both sides of the divide in the globalised economy.

Look I don't want to sound like a parochial Labour Party hack but there is the question of the trade union link with the Labour party. I think not only does it make sense for both the political and industrial wings of the Labour movement to work together but also we have to bear in mind that a major split would be an absolute gift to the Conservatives which has to be a very strong argument against breaking the link. So as long as this a retained I'm all in favour of the forces of Labour working internationally to be kind of standartd bearers that ordinary working people need across the globe.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
  New Years Honours 2007
I was having a look a the new years honours list, available here, and the thing that struck me was how random it was. I'm sure that they are all lovely people committed to public service and all that but quite why they are more deserving than others is not really spelt out.

I was pleased to see that Linda Bellos got an gong. Never underestimate the ability of the establishment to bring into its ranks the most unlikely people.
  Free markets of religion
I don't suppose that I would, as a lefty liberal social democrat non believer, find many posts of a conservative southern baptist to interesting but this one is. It argues that religion is becoming like the free market with people picking and choosing religions according to personal whim rather than real conviction.

It reminded me of an article in the very excellent double christmas issue of The Economist on the growth of the pentecostal church. It argued pentecostalism filled an "ecstasy gap" left by more conventional Christianity and that it was gaining major footholds across the world in what seems like a very materialistic drive for supporters.

According to Wiki "Theologically, most Pentecostal denominations are aligned with Evangelicalism in that they emphasize the reliability of the Bible and the need for the transformation of an individual's life with faith in Jesus. Pentecostals also adhere to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy." So what is in the good book is all good stuff. I'm not sure that I completely agree. Try this West Wing clip for size.

  New British Export
The Great British have long been a trading nation, gaining the benefits of both imports, such as a foreign policy from Washington and exports where we have a new addition. The ASBO has been a pretty effective measure in my book so much so that it has been taken up across the Irish sea. According to the Irish government is set to introduce its own version on New Years Day.
  The blogs of war
One of the benefits of the blogesphere is that you can write about whatever you want. You don't have to convince an editor that your target market demographic is going to be hooked on your post on Albanian rug production 1925 -1935. Basically it is brilliant for experts to give us more detail than we get through the conventional press and media. I have been looking at some foreign policy blogs and two have stood out so I thought I would post them here.

Ok the US military is not strickly part of the world of diplomacy but is a huge factor in world politics, not least because it is the most lavishly funded in human history. As such it has lots of pieces of technology that are frankly quite scary. I think the best site for keeping up to date on this is Defensetech run by Noah Schachtman. It also has lots of info about other country's scary kit as well. For instance it was new to me that the Chinese has been using lasers against US spy satellites.

I was under the impression that the Japanese were six months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. Turns out i'm wrong at least according to Dr Jeffrey Lewis of Armscontrolwonk and lets face it he should know more about this than me. Apparently it would take them 3-5 years to go nuclear. His co-conspiritor Jane Vaynman is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Russia, based at the Carnegie Moscow Center. She invites ACW readers to come visit her in Moscow. The best time to do this is writes is around December or January when the weather gets really exciting and for the true nuclear weapons geek a “Moscow nonproliferation tour” will soon be available. Could we ask for more from a blog, I don't think so.
Friday, December 29, 2006
  The China Challenge
The international system is an almalgam of its base elements. Economic power, military might, ,ideological paradigm and war shape the system in which states operate. The emergence of China as a great economic power will define much of the landscape of international relations in the coming decades. Double digit economic growth has, in a generation, developed the world's fourth largest economy, while itsmilitary spending is outstriped only by the Unites States. Chinese Communist Party rule is anathema to western democratic values but with unparralelled economic growth looks set to continue.

I argue that growing Chinese power represents a series of five challenges to the international community. Firstly there is the challenge of economic competition and the related challenge of increased Chinese demand for energy supplies when we are entering a period of there globalscarcity. Further there are the challenges of the environment and human rights. Finally China'smilitary development is inescapable.


Opponants of globalisation argue it will create a race to the bottom in workers conditions.In summary I reject this. Cheap manufactured goods from China have been a benefit to the UK especially in terms of keeping inflation low and reducing living costs especially for thepoorest. Where else can we get £4 jeans. The indesputbale logic of the theory of comparative advantage means that national economies will become increasingly specialised, concentrating on what they do best. This is not to argue that globalisation is a pain free gain as anyone whose job has been exported will know. The challenge for us though is to win the race to the top. Economic competition from China doesn't create an imperative to reduce government expenditure rather the imperative is to invest in our supply of human capital. This means that we haveto turn the rhetoric of life long learning into a credible reality. I propose life long learning accounts worth £500 per year to be used for any educational purpose. This entitlement may be saved from year to year to afford more expensive courses. So rather than being opposed to social democracy globalisation can be used as a force that promotes the welfare state.

Energy demand

The exceptional economic growth of the chinese economy is increasing demand for energy in order to fuel it. As the Chinese Communist Party is well aware that continuing the boom is very important to maintaining its hold on power so ensuring the supply of energy has become a a major driver to it's foreign policy in many areas of the world. In central asia it has set up the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to spread chinese influence in an energy rich part of the world also being courted by the US. China has just held a summit for all african leaders and it is also challenging US domination of South America. There is also state support in the form of soft loans from state banks to Chinese oil companies.If your an energy supplier the thing the chinese give you is options. Don't like all that talk about human rights from the western states, try China they wont trouble you on that is the
basic message. The sooner the world moves away from the oil economy the better it will be and states that move in this direction first will be the biggest gainers.


With a roughly a quarter of the world's population many who are fast attaining western levels of consumption it is vital that China sign up to a successor to Kyoto. They will no doubt argue that the west was able to develop without such restrictions so why should they be subject to them. It's a perfectly fair point but climate change is happening now, it represents a very serious threat to world security and economic growth. We should sweeten the pill with technology transfer and maintain diplomatic pressure by being tough on trade issues if they don't want to play ball on the environment.It is also pertinant to bear in mind it is in the national interest of the Chinese as they are already experiencing problems of watersupply, desertification and significant levels of pollution. The smartest thing an environmental NGO could be doing at the moment is translating its published material into Chinese.

Human Rights

The sad reality for the neocons is that we can't invade China and impose western liberal democracy. For one thing they already have nuclear weapons and Iraq shows it doesn't work anyway even if they haven't. Economic growth will create a class of people who have power not under the control of the state at some stage these people will want a say in how the country is governed.We should in return for foreign investment demand that the Chinese courts system is fair and impartial in order not only to protect our own investments but also to limit unaccountable state power which is a neccessary precondition for a proper democratic system to take hold.We should also talk about Chinese human rights abuses. We should talk about Tibet, we should
talk about organ harvesting and we should follow that up with a rant about press freedom.What we should not forget that there have been many powerful and totalitarian regimes in history they all come to an end eventually. The Chinese Communist Party might seem powerful at the moment but ever since Tiannamen Square they have always been on the back foot. Economic growth may be insulating them now but should that fail their hold on power is less certain than
many assume it to be.

Military development

From a UK perspective I don't think that we should be overly concerned about the miliary capabilities of the people's republic. Even if they do develop a blue water navy I dont think they will be sailing up the Thames any time soon. The Chinese leadership may be many things but stupid is not on of them so they aren't going to create a major war anytime soon as this would endanger the economy which is the foundation of their rule. The United States should be more concerned. It's links with Tiawan put it in a very dangerous position. Recent Chinese military strategy has seen them upgrade there armed forces somewhat, especially from Russian sourcesand the configuration that they have suggests that Tiawan is their main target. I would argue the European Union should not lift the arms embargo it imposed on China
in 1989


The $64,000 question is what will happen in the event of an economic crash in China. Predictions of the end of the business cycle has been proved wrong many times before. Hopefully the Chinese leadership are smart enough not to let there economy overheat so much that we have an asian Wall Street Crash and another world depression. We also have to address how the Chinese economy is reconciled with environmental stability and we should be liberal about poking our nose in Chinese business as China's attitude on the environment will have significant effects on the rest of the world.

The great hope of western democrats is that China will become a stable multi party democracy. Personally I dont think it is going to come about any time soon but should it happen it raises an interesting possibility. This is because it won't be until China is a properly functioning democracy that the international system will be able to move away from power politics to a more democratic form of governance which would be the biggest change since the beginnings of the states system.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
  Christmas digest
The worst Christmas present I got was a book entitled "150 years of the Daily Telegraph". Apparently the buyer didn't know it was a rightwing paper, sometimes I worry for democracy. Ebay!

Otherwise it was a really good traditional Christmas. The turkey was a bit to dry and the vegtables a bit to overcooked. There were no really major family arguments so it was just like the perfect Christmas's of my childhood.

I have been working on an article on the challenges that the emergence of Chinese power will have on the international system but as I haven't finished it yet you will have to wait until Friday.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
  A very merry christmas
A very merry Christmas to you all dear readers. As Nick Cohen points out here it is going to be an even more merry Christmas if you are a tax avoiding plutocrat.Perhaps it is apt to misquote Neil Kinnock: "a Labour government, a Labour government, hiring private jets to scuttle round the world handing out tax rebates to the foreign plutocracy". Anyway it is the season of goodwill. Roll on equality in 2007.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
  How much ?!!!
Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have a very interesting take on the cost of the iraq war over at Truthdig. Instead of just the cost of the military operations they are including the payments for war pensions and the cost of lost investment opportunities amongst a whole host of other things. The total figure is pretty gigantic and it would be interesting to see what the eqivalent UK figure is. I bet it will give Gordon the grumps.
  One country many languages

As some of you know my MRes dissertation is going to have a fair amount about China in it so I thought it would be a good idea to look at the country a bit more closely. Now I knew that there was a division between Mandarin and Cantonese but in actual fact it gets a bit more complicated than that as the language map above shows.
Friday, December 22, 2006
  John Reid to run for US president if you can read his hand writing

One of the joys of HTML email is that you can personalise it by putting in the fake handwriting text. It's kind of folksy but it can go so wrong as in this example.

John "middle name Reid and no i'm not kidding" Edwards has sent out his electronic christmas card. This must have been scanned in because I have no idea what he is going on about. At least I have found someone with worse handwriting than myself. He may be working on the assumption that the American people have decided that facility with the english language is a detriment to being POTUS [President of the United States]. John it's not true, only the present one has been so handicapped.

Modesty forbids me to put the family photo as his oldest daughters skirt is slighty shorter than Dubya' attention span. She started Harvard Law School this Autumn, her dad wants to be President; it can only end in less than flattering press coverage.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
  Hilary Benn sort yourself out
Hilary Benn is first so far in Iain Dales pole of Labour cabinet ministers. JP is second and let's face it it is troublesome tories doing the voting there. The thing is he is part of the westminster village who have all been programmed for years that the successor will be Gordon. The thing is Gordon would benefit from a proper contest, the party would benefit and the unexpected could always happen and he may win. So what are you waiting for.

NB1 Harry Barnes: This could also be applied to Peter Hain.

NB2 I really hate my internet connection at the mo as it was off then it was on again and very quickly went off againg and refuses to come back to life. So stuck in massively overpriced internet cafe. Role on spring term.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
  Questions for Maude - Urgent !

Iain Dale is interviewing Tory Chairman Francis Maude tonight on 18 Doughty Street and is asking on his blog for some questions to ask. So how about some of these.

1. Who was involved, on both sides of the transaction, in negotiating their £250,000 Juniper Trading Equities Limited loan at base rate -0.25%, repayable over 30 years, and whether they consider this to be a commercial rate? Is Juniper offering similar rates to anyone else? If this loan is not commercial, will David Cameron publish the names of the owners and backers of Juniper Trading Equities Limited, based in Geneva and registered in the British Virgin Islands, and reassure us that they are permissible donors?

2. Who was involved, on both sides of the transaction, in negotiating the £3.6 million loan from Lanners Services Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands and is this loan at a commercial rate?

3. Who are The 'Medlina Foundation' - which has given a loan of £950,000 and gives as its address the contact details of its law firm in Liechtenstein? Is this a commercial loan, and if not, are its backers permissible donors? Who negotiated this transaction?

4. How can Ironmade Limited, which gave a loan of £1,014,000 on 1 June 2005 and was only incorporated as a company a few weeks before, on 13 April 2005, give a loan of this size if it is a 'non-trading company' as it says on the Companies House website? Who negotiated this transaction?

5. Big Ben Films gave a loan of £2,600,000 on 31 March 2006 and is described
on the Companies House website as a 'non-trading company'. The director of
the company is known Tory donor Johan Eliasch. Is this a commercial loan? How can a non-trading company lend £2.6m? Who negotiated this transaction?

6. Who is behind the Scottish Business Groups Focus on Scotland�, which donated to the Conservative Party £200,000? Are they permissible donors? Who negotiated this transaction?

7. Non-cash donations worth £148,000 in the form of auction prizes were
donated to the national Conservative Party. Who bid for these prizes and how much money was generated? Were all of these donors permissible under election law?
  Potato famine solved in the Dail

The last post on the Irish Political System certainly helped me understand their way of doing things a bit better. I hoped it helped you to. The thing it lacked though was the flavour of the politics. I also have an interest in using electronic media in politics so what better opportunity to show what must be one of the first if not the very first Irish political Youtube video on a British political blog. Clearly the potato famine is over.
  Copenhagen Koran
With the memory of the Danish cartoons fading into memory. The Copenhagen post has a story out that the new Danish translation of the Koran is turning into something of a best seller. I'm a little wary as only 5000 copies have been sold and it's not clear whether this are being sold to muslim immigrants who fancy a copy in the new language they are trying to learn or to native Danes who have decided to get all right on in the way that social democratic scandanavians sometimes choose.

Apparently Tony Blair takes a copy of the Bible and the Koran around with him everywhere. It didn't stop him from invading Iraq with was hardly an act of great religious piety now was it.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
  Work for Lib Dems for free. No chance
Being an intern was always something of a crap job, except you don't get any money. Unless you go to Europe. Thank you Mr Howitt. The quality of the experience does depend to quite large extent on the nature of the boss. Can they get you a real job? Are they respected in the party? Are they going to stay around a bit after you've left? So why on earth would anyone want to go and work for Mark Oaten for free when he is standing down.
  I learn something new everyday
Evelyn Goh has written a really fascinating article for Foreign Policy in Focus on the engagement by the Chinese with South East Asia. This bit brought me up a bit. The scale is so huge.

"If the ongoing negotiations for the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) are successful, by 2010 the world's largest free trade zone will be created with 1.7 billion people, a total GDP of $2 trillion, and total trade volume exceeding $1.2 trillion."
  The Irish Political system volume 1
There seemed yesterday to be a bit of demand for some info about the Irish political system. So i've pinched this from the Irish EU presidency 2004 website But I think it gives a good run down of the essentials of the Irish political system. It may be a bit patronising for the expert but is ideal for dumb foreigners which alas in this respect is the bracket I fall into.

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The two houses of the Oireachtas (parliament) are Dáil Éireann (house of representatives) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate). The Constitution was enacted in 1937. It defines the powers and functions of the President, the Government and the Oireachtas.

The Government is led by the Taoiseach (the prime minister, currently Bertie Ahern) and Tánaiste (deputy prime minister, currently Mary Harney).

Each of the Dáil's 166 members is a TD (Teachta Dála). They are directly elected by the people. General elections take place at least once every five years. The most recent one was in 2002. Since independence in 1922, Ireland has used an electoral system based on proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote (STV). This system is used to elect members to the Dail, local councils and the European Parliament. Electors indicate their most favoured candidate by putting "1" beside the candidate's name on the ballot paper (or screen), and can go on to indicate their second, third and lower preferences in the same way.

The Seanad has 60 members; 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach, the rest from a number of vocational panels and by graduates of universities. The Seanad can initiate or revise legislation, but the Dáil has the power to reject these proposals or amendments.

The President is the Head of State, and is directly elected by the people. The current President, Mary McAleese, was elected for a seven-year term in November 1997. Her immediate predecessor, Mary Robinson, was Ireland's first woman President.

The President does not have an executive or policy role. While not having the powers of, say, the US or French President, Ireland's President has the absolute discretion to refuse the dissolution of the Dáil when the Taoiseach has ceased to retain a majority in the house. The President can also refer a Bill to the Supreme Court for a judgment on its constitutionality.

Presidential candidates need the nominations of 20 members or ex-members of the Oireachtas, or nomination by the councils of four administrative counties. Sitting Presidents can nominate themselves, but may only serve for two terms. Where there is more than one candidate, the people elect the President by direct vote.

There are 15 Government Departments, each headed by a Minister. The present Government is a coalition between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. The other main political parties in the Dáil are Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party.

Fianna Fáil has been the largest party in the Dáil since 1932. It is part of the Union for Europe group in the European Parliament. Fine Gael, the second largest party, is part of the European People's Party.

The Labour Party is a member of the Party of European Socialists (PES) in the European Parliament. The Progressive Democrats were established in 1985 to create a liberal party in the European mould. The Green Party is associated with Green Parties in over 30 other countries. Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party.

Local Government

The local government system is administered by 114 local authorities and is undergoing a process of renewal and reform. The services they provide include:

Local government is funded partly by central government and partly by local sources including motor tax proceeds, rates on commercial property, and local charges such as refuse and rents. There are eight regional authorities and two regional assemblies whose members are nominated by local authorities. Their main tasks are to promote public service co-ordination and to monitor and advise on EU structural and cohesion funding programmes.
Monday, December 18, 2006
  The Bloggers candidate - Jon Cruddas
Jon Cruddas for Deputy Leader

Just in case you forgot who I and every other decent Labour blogger was backing for Labour Party Deputy Leader. This is a great opportunity for power in the Labour party to be redistributed to the members and activists rather than being decided around the cabinet table and the result a forgone conclusion before the ballots go out.

He is also bang on the money. Check out this

Hilary Benn get some balls and run for leader.
  Politics in Ireland

We tend to be rather obsessed about the minutiae of American politics in this country but there is another english speaking country across the ocean to the west who's politics we know very little about. Ireland.

Not only do their speaking English handy for us monolingual Brits they also have Guiness so what more do you need to get interested in Irish politics.

The website Politics in Ireland is a blog aggregator like bloggers for Labour but cross party I think. This may be like the proverbial new years resolution that last until February but shall endeavour to check it once in a while and inform myself a bit better about the politics of this wonderful country.
  Sorting out the country one step at a time
The idea of this is to come up with some ideas that will help creat a better society yet not cost a fortune. We can all come up with great ideas that cost money, that always in demand resource. The challenge is to find ideas that are both good and yet cheap so that they have a much greater chance of actually happening. Tagging anyone who fancys having a go as well.

Sending people to prision is very expensive and very ineffective. We should only send people to prison if they are a danger to the rest of us. If not we need to find different forms of punishment such as house arrest.

They damage the environment and we have better technology available today so kick them to the kerb. Energy efficient goods also benefit the consumer as they have lower overall lifetime costs.

We're not going to need a ballistic missile in the very near future so why at this very second have we got a hugely expensive sub patroling some bit of the ocean ready to annihilate whatever country the PM chooses. I don't say scrap it but certainly we should mothball it given the amount or lack thereof of threat that we face.

People only hire consultants because they haven't got the balls to fire people without a consultant saying that they have to do it. Quite why we are lining the pockets of private firms for this service I don't know. Public sector organisations could have there own consultants at half the cost.

We need more people to do sport and we need to increase the amount of social capital so why not make it free to join volunteer run sports clubs.

Instead of leaving people to watch day time TV, get depressed and not address their barriers to employment we need to have job clubs that people can attend in order to claim benefit. These would have access to computers so people could make applications. Also people could volunteer for various charites as well. This should all be focused on improving self esteem and developing skills which is going to help people get into work
Protectionist, damaging to the developing world and massively expensive. This should be unilateral nott having to wait for the other countries to lower there farm tariffs.

Let the market know your plans. Give them enough time to change say 10 years. We got to the moon in that time, it's perfectly possible to develop non petrol cars in the same time scale.Bob your uncle a massive cut on CO2 emissions. Will need to be done on at least a europe wide basis.

It's expensive and a waste of time. Let's just get over it as the funds required to support it are more than can be legitimately raised by the parties

Nicked off Billy Bragg elect the house of lords on the vote in the general election but do it proportionatly so that no party has overall control. Democracy without have to deliver more leaflets perfect.

Private schools create social divison and worsen inequality and I think that they don't satify the public benefit test to which charities should be subject. By putting VAT on schools fee we can rasie some money to fund more reading recovery one on one tuition in state schools.

As there would be so many jobs on it, it would be a massive draw to people so the public sector will still get the staff it needs yet at a much lower cost.
  Exactly what we should be doing.
The government has given the go ahead for a massive off shore wind farm in the Thames Estuary . Check out the full story here
  Where you sit is where you stand
Another of the Tory "policy" groups has reported this time on National and International Security Policy. Now i'm sure there will be others who will mention the breathtaking volte face on Iraq.

The bit I wanted to comment on was the idea for the creation of a national security council not because the idea is intrinsically bad but because of the work of Graham Allison who wrote a book called Essence of Decision which if I paraphrase correctly, it has been a long time since I read it, argues that people will argue the solution to a problem is what they offer. For instance the general will say we need a military solution, the diplomat will argue for more talks.

The funny thing is that the chair of this Tory group is Dame Pauline Neville Jones a former political director of the FCO if memory serves correctly and certainly a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committe. This JIC is a kind of national security council for spooks. So given the work of Prof Allison is should come as no suprise that the recommendation her group is putting forward is for a jumped up JIC. Genius.

There is also the delicious irony that the party that is supposed to be against government dominating people lives has come up with a solution that is setting up another section of government. Double genius.
  Vote for Lemsip to cure those winter blues
It pains me to mention but there is actually something good on a Tory blog. Iain Dale has a quiz asking who is the best Lib Dem MP. I think that every Labour Party member and indeed comedy lover has just got to go there and vote for Lembit Opik.
  The Crowded Progressive Caucus
Great news from the other side of the pond. Thanks to the Labour Party yahoo group and the nation where you can get the full article.

BTW the progressive caucus is not the same as the campaign group. For one they are a lot larger even though the size of the House of Representatives is smaller and American politics is alot more rightwing than the UK. We haven't converted most of America to the virtues of the NHS for one.

What will be the largest of the ideological caucuses in the new House Democratic majority?

Why, of course, it must be the "centrists" affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council's "New Democrat Coalition." Yes, that's got to be the case because all the commentators at the Wall Street Journal keep saying that centrists were the big winners on Tuesday.

Er, no.

Well, then, it must be the more conservative Democrats who identify themselves as "Blue Dogs." Surely, that's the answer because all the folks on Fox News keeping talking about them.


The largest ideological caucus in the new House Democratic majority will be the Congressional Progressive Caucus, with a membership that includes New York's Charles Rangel, Michigan's John Conyers, Massachusetts' Barney Frank and at least half the incoming chairs of House standing committees.
  Is there a doctor in the house
I need an appointment to see a doctor, nothing to urgent So I contact the surgery. I can see a nurse practitioner today but what I think is wrong with me isn't really a nurse kind of thing. How about an actual doctor? Nothing in the next 2 weeks! Apparently I can call every day to see if there is a cancellation.

Not sure that paying GP's 100k a year was the best deal the NHS could of got. OK it's winter so there will be more demand still that's probably even more reason not to give GP's such massive pay rises so they bugger off to the ski slopes.
This landed in my inbox a little earlier. Personally I don't see bringing in the private sector as some universal panacea as examples of poor administration and waste abound there as well.

Dear colleague

I am writing to ask you to support the Public Services lobby planned for Tuesday 23rd January.

Although this is a TUC event it is a central part of Amicus Public Sector campaigning agenda and it is vital that we have a strong presence at it.

Your Regional Secretaries are organising travel. Please get in touch with them at your earliest opportunity to let them know that you will be attending.

If you are unsure how to contact your Regional Office please click on this link and choose your region from the list:

The public sector is Amicus fastest growing membership group and it is crucial that we mobilise large numbers to show our strength of numbers and to make clear to MPs our concerns.

The public sector is being subjected to wholesale privatisation. We have to stand up now and say that the commercialisation of public services in undermining accountability and failing to provide value for money.

This is our chance to stand together and tell MPs that public servants want to serve the public, not shareholders or company owners.

We will be gathering from 11.30am in Central Hall, Westminster and the rally will begin at 12.30.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Thank you in anticipation of your support.

Gail Cartmail
Assistant General Secretary
Saturday, December 16, 2006
  The Blogfather
I am proud to announce that this blog is now a blogfather as Manchester's very own Chris P has given birth to Labour of Love.
Friday, December 15, 2006
  Roll Up, Roll Up
Through the genius that is modern technology you can now subscribe to Parburypolitica by putting your email address in the new little box on the top right. I have also changed the colour on the top bar to silver.

It does not stop there however as I am having a think about how I want to change this blog a bit more substantially. This may even include a photo at some point in the new year. I would also be interested dear reader in how you think this site can develop. So it you have expertise in this area or just want to give me your two pence worth get in touch either in comments or willparbury [@]
  Telling it like it is on the Saudi prosecution. So sue me.
The decision to drop the prosecution into BAE systems alleged corruption of the Saudi's leaves me absolutley appalled on so many levels. Not the decision to drop the prosecution which I fully support but the load of sanctimonious claptrap that is having its five minutes of righteous indignation.

If I was running the country we would have a massive shift away from the oil economy so you can't blame me for the mess that we are in but the fact is that the world economy is reliant on the cheap and plentiful supply of oil. This includes Britain as much as any other country.

Therefore it is our interests to see the continuation in office of the Saudi royal family. The reality is that it is not a nice regime but if we look at the alternative of militant political islamism then I know one which I prefer , ie actually live in the real world because the saudi's aren't going to convert to westernized liberal social democracy anytime soon.

Instead of attempting this absurd prosecution which is really the business of the Saudi's we should be lobbying the Saudi government on human rights as this my help the lives of ordinary saudi's and strengthen the Saudi royals. Why should the SFO care whether a corrupt regime take British or French bribes? Personally I think it is more important that we tackle Saudi torture than Saudi corruption. One step at a time.

There is lets be frank a huge amount of money and jobs at stake. This is not something that the government can blithly ignore to please the the likes of Iain Dale who must be deluding himself if he thinks that any other serious party of government would have decided anything different.

Also let us be in no doubt that our relationship with Saudi is one of key strategic importance and not just on the issue of oil but also on the issue of terrorism where cooperation on intelliengence could well prevent an atrocity on the streets of this nation.

There we go rant over.
  Is it cause I is black? Yes
No not a comment on Bob Piper, bless his cotton socks. Rather an email has winged it's way into my inbox willparbury [@] about the Black Socialist Society Executive Elections and I thought I should publicise it on here.

I also want to ask a question what does BAME stand for? Is it a typo of BAEM black and ethinic minority?

Black Socialist Society Executive Elections
Freeze date: 12 January 2007

Following a joint meeting of the Labour Party National Executive Committee and ethnic minority Party members, a timetable for elections to the Executive Committee of the Black Socialist Society has now been agreed.

The Black Socialist Society seeks to:
• Increase the recruitment of BAME people to the Labour Party
• Increase the involvement and representation of BAME people within the Labour Party
• Increase BAME support for the Labour Party at elections

An internal election timetable has been set and once completed on 10 March 2007, the Black Socialist Society will take its place as a fully affiliated socialist society.

Membership of the Black Socialist Society is open to Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority individuals. Members of the Black Socialist Society must be (or must be eligible to be) members of the Labour Party.

To take part in the elections for the Executive you must have joined the Black Socialist Society by 12 January 2007.

Membership costs just £1.

You can join or recruit local ethnic minority members or supporters to the Black Socialist Society by going to your MpURL to download an application form. Just login and go to the yellow BSS link on the left hand side.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
This is class
  Nice to know
A bit of an exclusive over PM's position on party funding on the site of Hackney's most famous ginger councillor, the delectable Luke Akehurst
  Your country needs you Chris P

There is a bit somewhere on Bloggers 4 Labour where you can suggest people who would be good as Labour bloggers. To be honest I can't be arsed to find it and I know that he reads these humble pages so Chris P the Labour blogosphere needs you.

Someday there will be another Tory government in this country. That is the stark reality is that it will to a huge amount of damage to the country but every cloud has a silver lining as this would be the ideal opportunity for a prolific Labourite to become the new Guido Fawkes. Chris P that could well be you. I can see the Tory ministers pulling there hair out thinking about how they can stop you tormenting them.

The thing is if you start now I think that it will be Labour ministers pulling their hair out and of course John Leech the waste of space for Withington. I also like the optimisim at the end of just some of the quotes you have put on the blog today, despite it being somewhat misplaced.

"Incidentally there is a cracking tale on the Lib Fibs blog about a scotch Lib Dem (geddit?) who asked a question - as did John Leech identically - about cluster bombs. Turns out this scotch man used to be a PR man for the firm that makes the damned things. And has visited them to encourage their industry since he was elected. And there was me about to finally catch Leech doing something right. But no. He asked a question in tandem with a cluster-bomb-hypocrite."

"I notice that Compass' EDM on the commercialisation of childhood has brand placement in its title and reinforcement in the form of further brand dropping in the body of the motion. Irony indeed."

"In fact the lowest five deciles of the whole school population don't get their five good passes. This is pretty strongly correlated with wealth and socio-economic status. Black British youth are over-represented in the lower reahes of wealth and jobs and the higher reaches of multiple deprivation. The differential between boys and girls apply through the whole gamut. But if we had universal comprehensives and less testing like Finland we might expect results of the lowest 70% to improve drastically. I pointed this out to Blair at a Big Conversation event in 2004 but he is yet to change the government's unwise pursuit of "choice" instead of "quality" and "equality". I'm sure he'll be doing it soon. He did not dismiss me with the contempt usually reserved for facile Lib Dem questioners like Leech at PMQs. Really he didn't."
  A tree is for life not just for Christmas
The sad reality is that most of the Christmas presents we are about to get aren't going to be that good. Infact some are going to be fairly useless but fear not help is at hand.

Sera is running a scheme where you can get a tree planted to help cut carbon emissions so for a mere £20. You can even pick where you want it planted from range of woods all over the country.

The best thing about it not about the tempory orgy of consumerism on Christmas day but in a few decades time when you can go and see the tree and say "I did that".
One of the key things that every politico must learn is when to quit. It is obviously a lesson that Compass supremo Neal Lawson has learnt given what's happening at his old lobbying company LLM

Quite what his old colleagues make of the new compass campaign against the commercialisation of childhood remains to be seen.
  Who are the silver tongued these days?

As some of you will know I am more than a little bit partial to a bit of West Wing. This clip has one of the best speeches in it. It set my oborine (see comments in post below for a definition) gray matter to work thinking who in modern politics is that good. Clinton, Blair, Obama, Galloway in person not on TV. I can't think of any women that immediately stand out as great speech makers at the moment. Though it has to be said that Mrs T could do the business after the voice training she had.
  Scrybe shock
Scrybe over at thalondondiaries aka the camera with the hat is having fun with the joy that is Trevor Phillips. This is the bit I found shocking:

"In England, only 27% of Black Caribbean boys got five or more good GCSEs last year, considerably below the national average for boys of 46.8%."

If you don't get those 5 key A* - C grades at GCSE then you are more than a bit stuffed in life, though saying that you can be doing a postgrad and still be somewhat stuffed but that's by the by. If were are going to create the kind of tolerant and fair society that we want this has to be tackled. Hopefully with more alacrity than has been evident so far.
  As if by magic
Parburypolitica yesterday

A missive reaches me from one Fiona Gordon. You can now get Tony at a knock down price but be quick as before you know it he will be going, going, gone. If you want one get in touch and I shall forward on.

Just a reminder that we still have a few DVDs of the Leader's Speech to conference in Manchester which also has the Labour Achievements film. It is a little bit of Labour history and only costs £5. If you would like one or more please let me know as soon as possible.

Fiona Gordon
Director of Unit and Secretary to PLP

the Guardian diary today

· We are indebted to a moving email from Labour's Fiona Gordon for the inexplicable news that there are still a few copies left of the historic DVD featuring Mr Tony's last ever speech to conference and the lump-in-throat Labour Achievements film (or LAF if you live north of Watford). Reduced to clear at £5 a shot, they're the perfect stocking filler. (Okay, we made up the "reduced to clear" bit. But they are only a fiver. A bargain, really.)

Clearly great minds me thinks ....
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
  From the people who brought you the Iraq war....

Paul Wolfowitz's plan to combat world poverty as the head of the World Bank; drive away the half the existing senior staff who know what they are going and bring in Republican political hacks. Genius.
  A horse designed by a committe is ....
It appears that the British government is not the only one to be having problems with the Americans over the new Joint Strike Fighter programme
  Want to stand in Mongolia
The Mongol Messenger is reporting that candidates for some elections will have to be more highly qualified than we expect our candidates to be. Are the Mongols talking sense, should all our candidates be public sector workers for 3 years?

On December 7, parliament held the first reading debate on a bill on administrative divisions.

The bill proposes that candidates for aimag, city, soum and district governorships must be tertiary educated; have no criminal record; have no outstanding tax debt; have no unpaid loan; and have worked for the state for at least three years. Bagh and khoroo governors must have no debts or criminal conviction.
  Double trouble
There are some funny goings on in the Gulf at the moment. The first is political and the second is environmental. The Saudi ambassador to the United States is making an exit out of Washington so fast it's more than a little unseemly and only a year into the job as well. An exit such as this from such a plum job can only mean one thing: Something's up in Saudi.

It's not stuff going up in Dubai that's the problem it the rain coming down. The Gulf, think deserts, cloudless blue sky, occassional sand storm not flooding like this.
  A victory for freedom
Curtailing the right to peaceful demonstration is a stupid thing to do as they will just find more harmful means of expression. So I am glad this has happend
  A big run for little Dennis
Congressman Dennis Kucinich has just announced his latest bid for the presidency and as a progressive (though not on free trade)in American politics he stands only a slightly better chance than orville the duck. Worse luck.

Announcement of Candidacy for President of the United States

Dear Friend,

We are living in a time of great tests of our humanity, which also present great opportunities for transformation. The war in Iraq is a veil that shrouds our creativity and our potential for prosperity. It cuts us off from the world at a time when it is imperative that we acknowledge our interdependence and interconnectedness.

This is a moment with a profound feeling of destiny. America has been an extraordinary international power to manifest that which we focus our energies upon. This power is true of individuals as well as nations.

In a way, when we focus on terror, we bring to ourselves that which we fear. We focused on terror in Iraq and paradoxically helped to create the circumstances, which have propelled Iraq into civil war and chaos.

The prestigious Lancet report on excess casualties in Iraq estimates that the war in Iraq has caused 655,000 Iraqi deaths, and that 20% of those deaths are a direct result of the actions of coalition forces.

This war sacrifices the lives of innocent Iraqis, the lives of our troops, and the physical resources and good will of our nation. We are sacrificing our financial future, borrowing money from Beijing to occupy Baghdad in a war that military generals and the Iraqi Study Group have concluded is impossible to win militarily.

We are focusing our resources on the power of destruction rather than the vision of a world in which we want to live: A world of prosperity and peace, equity, beauty and justice. It is time for us to stand together to bring the troops home and stand by the people of Iraq through implementing a real policy for the security, recovery, reconciliation and restoration of their nation.

We as a nation have the opportunity to embrace the challenges of our time and take a new direction, starting with ending the war in Iraq. The leaders of my party have said that they will not stop funding the war, and are openly supporting a supplementary appropriations bill for an additional one hundred and sixty billion dollars ($160,000,000,000), on top of the $70,000,000,000 that was appropriated to Iraq for financial year 2007, back in October of this year. This would bring war expenditure for 2007 to $230 billion, double the expenditure of 2006, and by far the largest appropriation of the war so far.

Today, I announced my candidacy for President of the United States in a quest to call my party to courage and integrity on this issue. This is a journey upon which I hope you will join together with me to ensure that our country calls forth our great potential with the same courage of our forefathers and mothers who birthed the vision for our great nation.

You can see a video of my Announcement speech on (Our site has undergone its own transformation!)

Our campaign will change the direction of the Democratic Party, the war in Iraq and our nation.

Please join me to help make this great turning possible.

Thank you

  What we are not is an equal partner to a sole superpower
What we are not is an equal partner to a sole superpower – a comment on the “Special Relationship” by Will Parbury

Any serious vision of British foreign policy must contain an analysis of this most pivotal of relationships for the United Kingdom, so here’s mine.

My argument can be simply put before any exposition. British foreign policy has overrated the importance of the special relationship putting the strategic position of 1945 ahead of a hard headed analysis of British power and influence in the world, which is not inconsiderable.

Let’s establish some fundamentals. America is the sole remaining superpower. There are those who argue that American power is on a relative decline compared with the seeming exponential economic growth of China but it is clear that America is the greatest depository of military power the world has ever known. It has the world’s largest economy, its science is the most advanced on the globe and its culture stretches from continent to continent like no other.

Britain on the other hand can no longer be considered the hegemonic power it was at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century. Two world wars presaged the disintegration of what was the world’s greatest ever empire. Now with the world’s fifth largest economy in the world, it has the most powerful armed forces in Europe; its economy has been successful in comparison with its European counterparts in recent years. It has a fine diplomatic service, a seat on the UN Security Council and the closest relationship of any country with the America in military and intelligence terms.

The special relationship was forged, not in the birth of the new American nation from its colonial mother but in the trials of war against the biggest threat ever posed to the free world: Nazi Germany. In 1940 Britain stood alone against this tyranny, its prospects looked bleak but America came to the aid of it’s fellow democracy and the war was won though the “blood, toil, tears and sweat.” of both nations working hand in glove to defeat the common foe. First in Europe and then the Pacific. It was during this time that sharing intelligence between the two nations become vital to the conduct of the war and joint work was started on the “Manhattan Project” which saw the Americans produce the world’s first nuclear weapons with some British assistance. In this time of conflict the bonds were forged.

The dream of British foreign policy in the post war era was to play a British Athens to the American Rome. Suez was when the British realized that this was a fiction that could no longer be sustained. The begging bowl that Keynes went with to Bretton Woods should have been an indicator that the economic game was up as far as our imperial ambitions went. Suez was the military realisation of this. In 1945 the empire was still intact. Indeed it had made a significant contribution to victory but it was not long to last. Over one short generation the greatest manifestation of the power of the British state its last remaining colonies achieved independence.
Europe had been shattered by the second war to devastate the continent in 50 years.

The system of relations between the states of Europe clearly had to change. A balance of power system that reached its apogee with the master statesman Bismarck, who’s Realpolitik could not be sustained by his less capable imitators, had to be ditched as the organising principle of international relations in Europe. Growing Soviet power won in its own “Great Patriotic War” in the east saw the continent divided. The remaining countries of Western Europe anxious to avoid war between themselves and provide protection against the threat of communism sought to more closely integrate with each other. It was not until 1973 in a state of post imperial enfeeblement that Britain became part of this endeavour.

These are the key background points to where we are today. There are two significant areas where the special relationship gives us an advantage. Firstly is access to intelligence. The cooperation that we are led to believe goes on in this field is extremely close. I think post Iraq we do have to put a question mark over the value of this intelligence relationship given the consequences of intelligence that at the very least was inadequate and at worst plain manipulated for political ends.

The second is over nuclear weapons. Where the “independent” nuclear deterrent is not quite a wholly US owned subsidiary though it gets pretty close on occasion. Should the US decide to withdraw support for the British nuclear deterrent a struggle to maintain the existing weapons that we have is about the limit of our capability unless we decide to shift very significant resources. There is also reality that we are unlikely ever to use these weapons which we acquire at great cost.

Quite what additional benefits we get from the special relationship are rather well hidden. The US military hasn’t invaded us yet but then they don’t really need to. Our relationship with the United States may be special to us but Uncle Sam is like the sailor with a girl in every port. The American Japanese relationship is very close. It may be something to do with the oil but Saudi Arabia is of key strategic importance to the US and woe betides any American politician who is not a strong supporter of the state of Israel. The thing is we have to realise that we are not the only one. Infidelity is going to hurt in any relationship but we have to get over it.

The reality is that we are a fairly large European based power. We may not like it in terms of our national identity, we may not like how the European project is run, we may not even have the same conception of what the union should be about as some, though not all, of our European partners. But it is an undeniable geopolitical reality that the logical course of action for British foreign policy is to play a significant role within the European project if we are seeking to maximise British influence. There is simply no other game in town.

Not only this, it would also be an abrogation from British history of the gravest nature. Britain may have traditionally positioned itself in “splendid isolation” but this has not stop use being involved with the wars of the continent. The problem with “splendid isolation” is not the idea of isolation itself but rather the international regime that it’s part of namely: balance of power. So what’s the problem with the balance of power? I would argue that it is a system of international organisation which makes war more likely rather than less. It is based on power rather than law or common value system. So the mindset that political leaders operate in is one where there goal is a zero sum power maximisation game.

Does this mean that we need to minimise other historical British foreign policy relationships, significantly the special relationship and the Commonwealth? No I would argue that we need to rethink the special relationship in more rational less emotional terms. We need to think from what we put in are we getting good value from what we get out of it. I am not convinced that we are at the moment so I would suggest that we need to reassess how we want to engage with the sole superpower.

We may want to start with reclaiming our foreign policy. We need to get away from the impression that British foreign policy is owned and decided lock, stock and barrel in Washington. The Commonwealth is never going to be the central plank of British foreign policy. It is a nice add on where we can hope to promote democracy and human rights but there will always be the taint of imperialism when we become involved with it.

Talking of values what about those of the special relationship? These English speaking liberal democracies with the shared cultural references. The history of common struggle, first against fascism, then communism and now against militant Islamist terrorists. I argue that these values do matter but changing the nature of the special relationship is not going to alter that fact. Perhaps this is what is truly special about the relationship that the vagaries of diplomacy will have relatively little impact on the shared culture and values. But neither should they have an undue influence on a hard head assessment of where our national interest lies.

In conclusion let me be clear. I am far from being anti American. I think America is in many ways a great country with a fine tradition of promoting freedom around the world. Certainly more so than other countries that had pretensions to global power namely the Soviet Union or more recently China. I also want the United Kingdom to have a strong relationship with the United States but this should not be at the cost of our foreign policy. We have to get back our sense of self respect. Europe offers us the prospect of improving our society through closer cooperation with the states most important to our own security. America offers us weapons technology, intelligence of patchy quality and great Prime Ministerial photo ops at the White House. Let us think harder about which relationship should be special to Britain.
  Diane Abbott - Not your typical Daily Sport reader

Lets face it most MP's websites are as dull as ditchwater. Not Diane Abbot's though. I mean how many MP's have photos of them looking at soft porn on their websites. She is running a campaign against such things cluttering up the nations newsagents lower shelves and in best practice for those codemning something she's giving it a whirl. Doesn't look to impressed does she.
  Oops the cat is out of the bag
Ehud Olmert lets one slip. This could be explosive
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
  How to get selected the BGB way
The selection contest in Bethnal Green and Bow continues unabated and in keeping with the season what a merry little contest it is turning out to be. At least there will be no shortage of candidates. One local member sent round a survey, here is one of the replies and rather amusing if worryingly accurate it is to. So what is going to sort the wheat from the chaff, the political star from the failed wannabe, well read on and ye shall know. Special thanks to my sceptical friend Paul.

What do you think are the characteristics that the BG&B contestant must have to win?

a) The selection?

· An up-to-date list of members annotated according to eligibility 3 months before the other candidates

· Pals in the bureaucracy who will prevent the other candidates having the same advantage

· A Campaign Manager who knows who hates who most and will spread rumours to your advantage

· A high tolerance for halitosis, BO and tedium

· A car with driver and free petrol

· Convenient memory lapses and strategically-timed holidays or working trips abroad

· Overweening ambition to succeed at any price or Campaign Manager with Svengali tendencies

b) The election?

· Good health and a strong stomach

· A firm padlock on the cupboard containing the skeletons, especially if that involves having appeared on screen in tacky underwear

· A tolerant employer who will grant unlimited time off work

· A sponsor or slush-fund or the discreet appearance of either

· At least a vague idea of the constituency’s boundaries and recent history

· Ability to say Hello, Good Evening and Welcome in 5 languages

· A religion that does not preclude campaigning at weekends

· Some credible connection to the area. Score:

o 10 for having lived here for five years or more
o 8 for being born here
o 5 for two or more family members living here
o 3 for working here
o 2 for drinking here
o -1 for only having passed over on a plane or under on a tube-train

Beliefs required? Largely optional and adaptable at all stages

Is he missing something? Tell us in comments.
  That well known rebel Luke Akehurst .....

When do you know it's the end of an era and it's time to move on? When Luke Akehurst starts posting like this
  Your very own Tony DVD !
A missive reaches me from one Fiona Gordon. You can now get Tony at a knock down price but be quick as before you know it he will be going, going, gone. If you want one get in touch and I shall forward on.

Just a reminder that we still have a few DVDs of the Leader's Speech to conference in Manchester which also has the Labour Achievements film. It is a little bit of Labour history and only costs £5. If you would like one or more please let me know as soon as possible.

Fiona Gordon
Director of Unit and Secretary to PLP
Monday, December 11, 2006

Just because I feel like it. As of 6 minutes to 6 today I'm essay free until way into 2007. There is another reason but as I don't want to do a Kerron so my lips are sealed. ;-)
  A Room with a Russian View
This is an interesting view from Russia or at least the Moscow Times. China has well overtaken Russia even though the Russians don't like the Chinese. The Chinese are the only ones that can rival the Americans and when a crisis in China ala the Wall Street Crash means that the Chinese are unwilling to keep financing the US deficit the dollar will be chucked out as the world's leading currency. Or words to that effect. Probably not the first Vodka but certainly not impossible.
  Clinging on to power
Things aren't exactly looking up for Zimbabwe as Mugabe wants to stay on until 2010 and his replacements don't look like a bundle of joy either.
  Aids in South Africa
If you wandered why the South African government was changing from its incredibly backward tune on AIDS recently this might have something to do with it.
  Blow me down with a feather duster
Royal family member in doing something remotely useful shock
Sunday, December 10, 2006
  Check your pencil cases before you fly
"A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator. At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said he believes the man is member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of mathinstruction."

Hat tip The UK Daily Pundit
  And we thought they were all like Borat....
It seems that the Kazakhs like their tents big. Really big. Check this out. If only they had asked we couold have given them the Millenium dome.

Rumours that President Nursultan Nazarbayev is to privatise the government of Kazakhstan in a massive sell off to Centre Parks have been denied. Seriously though I am impressed.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
  Not a George W Bush supporter then ....
Your Vote Score: 3% Republican, 97% Democrat

You fit well with the Democrat party, and you should almost definitely vote Democrat this election.
In fact, you're so strongly Democrat, a political career (or at least some activism )may be in your future.
Should You Vote Republican or Democrat?
Thursday, December 07, 2006
  Step on it
I have found the walk it website really useful and I can't wait until it goes nation wide. But I have some other suggestions for improvement

They could put in highlights on route. If famous people lived where I was walking past it would be good to know. Or if something was invented on route that would be cool to know as well

I also wish that they did the calculations for cyclists as your feet can only take you so far.

Hat Tip Tom Watson
NASA is planning to send humans back to the Moon. Think it's a great idea.

Given what we are doing to the planet its probably a good idea if humanity settles other planets for the survival of the species. Not just the prospect of nuclear annihilation, global warming but an asteroid strike represents major threats to human life on earth.

There is also the delicious prospect of being able to send Opposition MP's on a one way ticket. Any suggestions?

  Just what we need: Expensive willy waving

Compass is doing a survey on people's views on the replacement for Trident. You can take part here

Here's my view

I think the case for the replacement of Trident is not proven as yet. The biggest threat to the UK from weapons of mass destruction comes from terrorists against which a submarine based nuclear weapons system is ineffective.

We should maintain the technology necessary to produce a nuclear arsenal should the international situation change but it is absurd to keep nuclear weapons on constant stand by as if it is the cuban missile crisis today. Trident should be mothballed but the technology retained and the savings put into more pressing priorities.
  Talented georgous actresses with no date!
It looks like Kerron has been having relationship difficulties. Well it turns out that he is not the only one. This young lady Gina Lollobrigida has seen her wedding called off by her other half. Obviously this is the season when actresses are unlucky in love. It may be the age gap who knows. The BBC is reporting it here Gina not Kerron.

As Gina is knocking on 80 she better be a bit quick sharpish about finding a replacement but this blog is sure Gem has plenty more time to play with / blokes queuing around the block. Kerron has been critised for being a tad ungallant in announcing his split on his blog but what better opportunity could there be to find someone new. Perhaps he could give Gina a hand as well.
  Got a spare body part?

I think this has to be the weirdest google search term used to get to this site so far

"i'm ready for love lend me your ear"

Quite what the intended use of my ear would be I don't know. I dread to think.
  On this day ....
1955: Attlee steps down as Labour leader
Clement Attlee has resigned as leader of the opposition Labour Party, following months of speculation. Tonight the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, announced in Downing Street that the Queen is to make Mr Attlee an earl.

He is the first Labour leader to accept a hereditary peerage. This will allow him to continue his work for the parliamentary Labour Party from the House of Lords, where the Opposition has little representation.

He made his announcement this morning at the start of a special meeting of the shadow cabinet in the Commons convened to discuss the Middle East.


He said: "After the [1951] general election I intimated that I would continue as chairman of the party meantime.

"It is regrettable, however, that since that date there has scarcely been a week passed without one prominent member of the party or another talking about my impending resignation. That certainly does not help the party."

He then announced his immediate resignation and was thanked for his long service to the party and the country.

More from the beeb here
  Go, Walk out the door, just turn around now
I went last night to a meeting organised by Bethnal Green and Bow Labour Party where Charles Clarke called for Labour Leadership contender John McDonnell to leave the Labour party because he rebelled against the government so much.

Personally I think that his chances of success are not that great. How so? If with the thousands of prision officers and billions of pounds he had as home secretary he can't manage to get foreign murders and rapists deported at the end of their sentence, arguably a much more important task, then he probably wont be getting rid of John McDonnell from the Labour party as a backbencher.

The thing that struck me about his attack was its remarkably graceless nature, a characteristic of someone who is going no where near the labour leadershipor for that matter being brought back under the new regime. I mean why would Brown want or need him.

Jim Fitzpatrick pointed to the success of campaigning every Tuesday and Saturday with up to 35 people coming along. This is all very commendable and certainly the way to go if they want to retake the BGB seat at the next election but how many people are they going to get after the selection is over? I must be getting cynical in my old age.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
  Stop facists from entering Grange Hill
I have just been shocked to discover that the BNP have six seats on Epping Foresst District Council and they have a candidate in an upcoming by election. If your around on Sunday check this out.

Grange Hill ward by-election

Epping Forest and Redbridge Together Group invites all anti-fascists to join us to defeat the British National Party in the Grange Hill ward by-election on 14 December.

Meet at 10.30am on Sunday 10 December outside Grange Hill station, Manor Road, Chigwell. Grange Hill station is on the Woodford-Hainault section of the Central Line loop. We shall give out a specially written leaflet to all homes on the Limes Farm Estate, which is where the BNP hope to gain votes.

The BNP hold six seats on Epping Forest District Council. We are determined to turn the tide against them at this by-election. Please pass on details of this activity to everyone you know, in your trade union, workplace, faith group and any other organisation you are a member of. It takes just a few minutes to phone or email a friend or colleague to get them to come over and spend a couple of hours with us.

Numbers are important to get the job done and to ensure the security of those taking part. Please check regularly for any updates and for future anti-BNP activities.
Remember we stand for Hope not Hate. See you there. Epping and Redbridge Together group PO Box 1576, Ilford IG5 0NG.

Hat tip Labour Home
  With photograpers like this who needs enemies

The other photo of John Leech seems to have gone down well so I thought I might try and find another beauty. I have no idea where he stands politically in the Lib Dem parliamentary party but it's safe to say that he is a bit of a Minger.

When I stood I at least had the gumption to realise that I am about as photogenic as John Prescott on a bad hair day and had 300 photos taken so I could find a decent one.
  Diamond Geezer
The other bit of goss that I got from last night is that in Iain Dales "straight days" he used to fancy Anne Diamond. To missquote the words of Through the Keyhole's David Frost "The clues were there"
  Tim's Tip
I was having a chat with Tim Montgomerie, he of Conservative Home, while waiting to go on 18 Doughty Street and he reckons the next big Labour blog thing is what's going to happen in the Labour Leadership contest.

Ok it's advice from a Tory but it would be foolhardy not to recognise that at the moment we are behind in the battle of the blogs and he is one of the right's leading practitioners.

The problem is the leadership election is looking incredibly boring. Brown wins, McDonnell loses shock. On that basis I would be voting for Gordon but if some member of the cabinet decided to develop some political if not anatomical testicles and set out their stall in a more progressive direction my vote and that of a great many Labour party members are still in play.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
  I'm backing Tony...

Tony Lloyd that is. He's standing against Ann "Saddams a naughty boy" Clwyd for the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The Guardian has an article on it here.

The fact that I don't have a vote is a minor stumbling point but you get the message.
  Withington Lib dem demise
Manchester Withington is a seat that Labour should retake at the next general election. This wont be to much to do with national issues though the Lib Dems are so treading water waiting for Ming to pop his clogs it's beyond a joke but rather to do with the utter waste of space who is the Lib Dem MP John Leech. The last local elections in the constituency saw Labour get a 6% swing when we only need a 1% one to win the general election next time.

Also the women who bankrolled the Lib Dem general election campaign to the tune of 20k has defected to Labour so he is going to have to stump up quite a bit of cash if he is going to mount the same kind of campaign as last time.

There is lots of juicy lib dem bashing gossip and it has to be admitted some defence of the lying scoundrel on the excellent John Leech Watch.

Here is a post from the comments section for flavour.

Withington Observer Monday Dec 04, 21:47 There is a hint in one or two of these posts that the estimable John Leech MP is somehow directing some of his record expenses to his party political activity. Others say that people in all walks of life, including MPs, fiddle expenses. But surely we need some evidence for such allegations and insinuations don't we?

All I can say is that I remember seeing in the Evening News that John Leech MP had produced what he called a "Parliamentary Annual Report" afterabout eight or nine months, including the long recess and that this wasdistributed just before and possibly in the early days of the local election period this year. This was a glossy number and in Chorlton it included TWO count em pictures of the local government candidate for Chorlton for the Lib Dems. So the tax payer was paying for something which clearly had a party political component and perverse timing for an annual report but useful timing for an electoral effort.

But that is not all. Yes, it was paid for by the taxpayer. Yes, it was excessively like Lib Dem campaign material. Yes, it included two pictures of the local candidate just before an election. Yes,it was rather nauseating. But what's this? It was also distributed in parts of the Chorlton ward for muggins the local candidate but which fall outside John Leech's current constituency. Which is bang to rights. There was even talk of the guy being reported to the Speaker for deliberately going over the constituency boundary - and apparently he has done the same sort of poaching casework in two or three other neighbouring constituencies. This was not the first time we've seen mistaken distribution from Leech'scrack team. Surely the Christies leaflets shoved into the poor faces ofterminally ill cancer patients in waiting areas was another example? Even if the leaflets had not been full of fibs this was bang out of order. And I'm sure that in his heart of hearts Mr Leech knows that.
  Parbury Punditary
Tonight i'm going on the internet TV Channel 18 Doughty Street to discuss current goings on in politics and to review the newspapers on the End of the Day show. I shall be on from 10 pm until midnight and it's available on their website. They also have an archive if it's past your bed time so you can watch it later if you want.
Monday, December 04, 2006
  Questions the Tories tosser should answer

There is a petition that you can sign here which asks some very interesting questions of the Conservative party. Hat tip Ridiculous Politics

We, the undersigned, call on Conservative Party Leader David Cameron to publish:

1. Who was involved, on both sides of the transaction, in negotiating their £250,000 Juniper Trading Equities Limited loan at base rate -0.25%, repayable over 30 years, and whether they consider this to be a commercial rate? Is Juniper offering similar rates to anyone else? If this loan is not commercial, will David Cameron publish the names of the owners and backers of Juniper Trading Equities Limited, based in Geneva and registered in the British Virgin Islands, and reassure us that they are permissible donors?

2. Who was involved, on both sides of the transaction, in negotiating the £3.6 million loan from Lanners Services Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands and is this loan at a commercial rate?

3. Who are The 'Medlina Foundation' - which has given a loan of £950,000 and gives as its address the contact details of its law firm in Liechtenstein? Is this a commercial loan, and if not, are its backers permissible donors? Who negotiated this transaction?

4. How can Ironmade Limited, which gave a loan of £1,014,000 on 1 June 2005 and was only incorporated as a company a few weeks before, on 13 April 2005, give a loan of this size if it is a 'non-trading company' as it says on the Companies House website? Who negotiated this transaction?

5. Big Ben Films gave a loan of £2,600,000 on 31 March 2006 and is described
on the Companies House website as a 'non-trading company'. The director of
the company is known Tory donor Johan Eliasch. Is this a commercial loan? How can a non-trading company lend £2.6m? Who negotiated this transaction?

6. Who is behind the Scottish Business Groups Focus on Scotland�, which donated to the Conservative Party £200,000? Are they permissible donors? Who negotiated this transaction?

7. Non-cash donations worth £148,000 in the form of auction prizes were
donated to the national Conservative Party. Who bid for these prizes and how much money was generated? Were all of these donors permissible under election law?
  I guess you call this progress
The BBC is reporting that the army is going round schools in deprived parts of Wales to find recruits sorry raise awareness. Quite why the army cannot appeal to heart of patriotic english men at Eton or other less famous public (ie public for the extremely rich) schools is beyond me. Would it per chance be that the scions of the modern plutocracy have bigger plans for themselves than getting shot?

Back in the Forst World War the son of the Liberal Prime Minister H H Asquith was killed in the trenches of the western front. Would such a thing happen today. Not likely. With a small volunteer army the armed forces need fewer recruits and with pay levels that are not stunning for the risks that they sometimes run the well connected steer clear of military service, only the royal family is carrying on this tradition and it appears this is for ceremonial duties only despite the protestations of the young prince's that they want to go with their troops.

This reminded me of two things. Firstly the fact that no US congressman has a one of their kids in harms way in Iraq and second an argument in a book called Virtual War by the Canadian thinker and now Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff which argued that with all this modern technology in military equipment used by advanced western counties the risks they were running were now reduced so that war to the West especially the western publics was more like a video game

Instead of the mechanised slaughter that we saw in the first half of the last century we are in a time when war is fought in distant lands by, for political leaders at least, other peoples flesh and blood. It's almost reminiscent of the old fashioned imperialism the machine gun against the sharpend mango fruit but now we have laser guidance.

I guess this is what they call progress
Sunday, December 03, 2006
  Manchester Labour leads the way !
Manchester's Labour council is a really superb organisation, one of the many reasons that the Labour group took seats of the Lib Dems at the last local elections, but it looks like we have gone above and beyond the run of the mill by setting up a public WIFI network that will eventually cover most of Greater Manchester. Universal public services, free at the point of use at the cutting edge, what more could the voters want. Check it out here.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
  Copper Kite
Benjamin Franklin reputedly flew his kite in a lightning storm, going on to discover that lightning equals electricity. However, certain precautions must be taken to avoid, as Ben Franklin did, sudden electrocution.

Kennon, 26, replicated the conditions of Ben Franklin's experiment, sans safety precautions. He was flying a kite,with a short string that he had extended with a length of thincopper wire. The copper made contact with a high tension line, sending a boltof artificial lightning down the wire. As Kennon was an electrician,Kennon's father told listeners, his son "should have known better."Kennon is survived by his parents, six sisters, and five brothers.

From the Darwin Awards, I think he's got to be a Lib Dem of some description.

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