Friday, 8 June 2007

So what exactly ARE they thinking?

Recently Conservativehome attempted to do away with the "Tory Bigot" characterisation that dogs their Grassroots (sample claim: "only 65% of us think immigration is bad - so we're only 35% racist!").

It's not just on ConHome that the subject of race has loomed large recently. It seems that, because Dave has put a bird blender on his roof, the caring sharing Tory membership is suddenly entitled to lecture everyone on the subject of race. Or something.

It started with Donal Blaney's attempt to excuse away an eight year old complaint made against him to the CRE via Margaret Hodge's "British homes for British people" speech. He then moved onto the Big Brother Race Debate mk.2.

It's the Big Brother thingy that's really annoyed me. (Funny to think that this has been caused by some daft bint whose parting words on British television were a disclosure that she wasn't wearing any underwear.) What annoys me is that even though we know they're bigots, and they know they're bigots, it's almost impossible to nail them down on it enough to properly call them on it.

Tory comments on BB were predictable: "not racist", "freedom of speech", "overreaction" blahdeblah. They're predictable because we know they're bigots. It's when they say things like the death of thousands of people is excusable on the grounds that it controlled inflation and prevented a communist takeover of a foreign state. It's a belief that certain classes of people are somehow below the rest of us. That's what I mean by Tory bigotry.

After Donal's effort on BB, Dizzy had a go, and purely for the fact that he was once voted Tory Blogger Most Likely To Construct A Meaningful Sentence, Iain sang his praises. And so the circle of Conservativism was complete.

Yer Tory approach to the Big Brother debate seems to be this:
because the "N Word" is used in American rap music by black people, then white middle class Tories can use it too. If you don't agree, then you're a racialist, racist racemonger - do you see? Oh, and Channel 4 is the work of the devil/Labour supporting media consiracy (delete as appropriate, or not at all) anyway.

Now, far be it from me to trample all over the civil rights of a load of white, privately educated middle class British men - especially after Dr King and Malcolm X fought all those years ago to establish those rights - but they're talking bullshit. Again.

Fact One: The word "nigger" is the most hateful, racist term that can be used against a black person.

Fact Two: A white adult cannot use that word to a black adult in a "jokey" way. At all. See fact one.

Fact Three: And this is the complicated bit: This debate is an American import. Because of the ghettoisation of Black America, the word has been reclaimed by elements of the black community. This has been brought to our attention, in little old England, by rap music. But just as I wouldn't ask Doug E Fresh to give me his opinions on the Tory Grammar Schools row, I'm not going to ask Donal Blaney to give me his opinion on the finer points of the relationship between linguistics and popular media in black America.

Black people calling black people "nigger" is a matter for black people - it's not a matter for people like me. Or the Tory blogosphere. And it's not an excuse for white people to call black people "nigger".

And as for Dizzy's argument that it must be OK "cos I heard some kids saying it on the bus, innit" - well where do I start? A bunch of teenagers do it, so it must be OK? Please. Kids do things to shock. Tell a kid that a word is wrong and they're gonna use that word - you have to be immature before you can be mature. In fairness, Dizzy almost gets this. But the Big Brother housemates are adults, not schoolchildren. They might not be an example of maturity, but they should be treated as adults.

In his post, Blaney relies on freedom of speech to defend one's right to say the word. This is another false argument. Freedom of speech is not the freedom to call someone the most hateful name possible. It is the freedom to criticise without fear of recrimination. There is no human right to call someone a racial slur. (And isn't it amusing how people who seemingly send a green-inked letter to the Daily Telegraph every time the concept of "Human Rights" is mentioned seem particularly keen on claiming a Human Right to Free Speech every time racism or homophobia is mentioned?)

In much the same way, the word "queer" has been reclaimed by the gay community. If someone referred to, say, a senior gay member of the Tory Party as a "queer" - "albeit in a jokey way that the recipient didn't find offensive" - would it be a defence to say that it was their entitlement to do so under the principle of free speech? No.

In the US, your education and career prospects, your average earnings, your likelihood of going to prison, your expected life-span - in fact pretty much every other social indicator you can think of - are severely reduced if you are born black rather than white. In the UK the story is not as bad, but it's bad. There are therefore differences between black and white on either side of the Atlantic. And those differences extend to language as well as social indicators. Different rules apply - we don't want them to, but they do.

One of the things that the Tory hierarchy realises - and this is not just David Cameron, it goes back to Teresa May's "Nasty Party" speech - is that the Tories have abdicated the right to lecture anyone on the subject of race. Of course, they can say what they like: that's Freedom of Speech. But they can't expect to be listened to or taken seriously.

That's the price you pay for dog-whistle politics and "Fulham Homes for Fulham People" literature. Cameron, for all his vacuous photo opportunities and Diet-Blair, policy free politics, at least realises that the party has a way to go before anyone asks their opinion on race. He keeps his head down as low as possible.

Witness his ruthless expulsion of Patrick Mercer. No-one in the party accused him of being overtly racist, they simply knew that a Shadow Minister who used the words "black bastard" in an interview - in any context at all - was a liability. Cheerio Patrick. In the past, treatment like this was reserved for Shadow Cabinet members who were incontrovertibly racist, like Ann Winterton.

Winterton is one reason among many why people don't trust the Tories on race, and why they have ceded the right to comment on it. And consider this: after she made the "ten-a-penny" Pakistani comment in 2002, she was re-elected on an increased majority. It's not like she made a "mistake" or was quoted out of context - she's made similarly racist statements since then. It's hard not to draw the conclusion that there was at least an element of her constitutency party that approved of her racism, and voted Tory because of it.

So people think Tories are bigoted. But - Cameron and a few others aside - do the Tories know they're bigoted?

On Irish television the other week, Iain Dale was asked (part two at 18:10) by a member of a panel: "Is your party any different from the filthy old bigots they once were?" Iain couldn't or wouldn't answer the question, but it showed three things:

1. The Tories are unable to recognise that their public image remains tarnished by bigotry

2. Because they won't recognise this, they can't do anything about it.

3. Despite the evidence of months upon months of 18 Dullty Street panel discussion, it turns out that it is possible to have a television panel discussion featuring Iain Dale that is in some way entertaining.

And until the Tories address their reputation as bigots they will have nothing to say about race that can possibly contribute anything useful.

(Incidentally, can someone PLEASE explain this to people who write things like this - the reason why no-one has set up a "White Police Officers' Association" is because it already exists - it's called the Metropolitan Police Force. That's why they've set up the Black Police Officers' Association).

So when Cameron is looking around for his Clause IV moment - as surely he must - he would do well to find one that expels the image of the bigoted old Tory. Because that's the last bastion of old Toryism that really could ensure that they win the next election.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

It's Like Eton and Oxford and Being Rich

Gweirdo goes from strength to strength

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

It's a Long Way from this codswallop to any serious debate...

Wahey! Won the pub quiz yesterday, found a fiver down the back of the couch and to cap it all off, those lovely Tories have obliged with yet GCSE politics essay to point at and laugh. Life is good.

This time it's about the Falklands. Sort of. Recently, those Tories have been prattling on about the conflict and why it denoted the greatness of Thatcher, the weakness of Blair and the clarion call for Britain's demise as a superpower. A few bloggers have penned short pieces on the subject, but Tim Montgomerie, founder of has helpfully gone into more detail, setting out the right-wing arguments behind their South Atlantic article of faith.

It's a long way from Port Stanley to the Shatt-al-Arab waterway

Today is the 25th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the Falklands. The recapture of the Falklands became the defining event of the Thatcher years.
Ah, "the defining event". This is ALMOST a great piece of Esperantory, but for the important fact that it's a phrase used across the political spectrum. Lefties, for example, see "the defining event of the Thatcher years" as the crushing of the Miners' Strike. Rightwingers see it as the crushing of the enemy within (i.e. the Miners' Strike). Ma*k That*her sees it as the time he had the whizzer idea of flogging a load of guns to the Saudis. Everyone else sees the defining event as the little matter of the end of Communism and the cold war. But no matter. I'll shut up and let you read in full the gushing prelude to the article from

A nation that had been in decline since WWII found a new confidence. As Robin Harris wrote in yesterday's Independent on Sunday, the Falklands campaign restored Britain's status in the world and provided Margaret Thatcher with the authority she needed for her domestic reform programme and for her to become Ronald Reagan's leading ally during the Cold War. A quarter of a century later the role of aggressor is being played by the much more deadly Iran. On this morning's television screens, for the fourth successive day, we watch kidnapped British sailors being humilated by their Iranian captors. Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is surely right to say that more should be done to put pressure on the regime in Tehran. His suggestion of a suspension of EU nations' export credits to Iran seems an immediate and minimum necessary response. For the longer-term, however, what this current crisis exposes is the decline of Britain as a serious power. In these early years of the war on terror, Tim Montgomerie, Editor of, lists ten key factors that have contributed to Britain's vulnerability in 2007.

An overstretched and under-resourced military:
Britain's armed forces - although made up of brilliant individual servicemen - are small in number and under-resourced. Recruitment rates are down and 'quit rates' are up. As Conservative defence spokesman Liam Fox has noted: "This year we will spend only 2.2% of our GDP on defence. This is the smallest proportion of our national wealth that we have spent on defending our country since 1930." You see, with Tories, all Public Spending is BAD, unless it's spent on Guns n Ammo, which is GOOD. If Argentina reinvaded the Falklands today the Royal Navy would be unable to send a task force to free them.
Well that's a stupid bloody sentence because:
1. They won't invade, because Blair has
shored up the shaky relationship between the UK and Argentina (or, as it's known in the trade, "diplomacy")
2. We wouldn't need a task force because there is a permanent deployment of 1200 troops, ships and RAF Tornados on the islands... unlike in 1982 when the Argentinian invasion was preceeded by the MoD removing practically all the island's defences
3. The Argentinians are no longer ruled by a tinpot despot shored up by our bezzie mates the Americans

The Iraq war. Although this blog was and is a supporter of the decision to topple Saddam Hussein it cannot defend the subsequent campaign. Britain and America attempted to prevail 'on the cheap' CHEAP!?. This might have been forgivable at first but when it was obvious that Rumsfeld's light footprint doctrine er, I think that should be "light fingers doctrine" was failing there should have been a change in strategy. US Senators McCain and Lieberman were calling for extra troops in early 2004 but their calls fell on deaf (and stubborn) ears. On the other hand, Former Secretary of State James Baker was calling for a drawdown in troops at the start of this year (but that's not helpful right now) President Bush's troops surge is a belated attempt to re-establish American authority. Britain's withdrawal from southern Iraq only reinforces the view of our enemies that we lack either equipment or resolution to prevail.

Appeasement of Iran. Tehran has watched Britain and America consistently fail to respond to its militancy thing is, Tim, we're already fighting two wars in the Middle East, and we're a bit, well, tied up at the moment . Its subversive agents have - until recently - been unchallenged in Iraq that's because - until recently - Iran's subversive agents were being more than adequately challenged by Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. Until the Neocon geniuses in the Pentagon got rid of them. I mean, what's a good Iranian subversive agent to do on a Saturday night? Sit around kicking his heels? HELL NO! Go out and blow shit up! (I'm sure a good neocon like Tim could understand the attractiveness of this option.) It bore no cost for its material support of Hezbollah during last summer's Lebanon conflict. There appears to be no limit to the EU nations' commitment to a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions which is, apparantly, a Bad Thing. While the talk goes on and on Iran could be less than a year away from realising its dream of becoming a nuclear power. Yes, it could be. Or it could not be. Either way, declaring war against a nascent nuclear power is Not a Good Thing. Of course, we would have been in a much stronger position to argue for international consensus if we hadn't neutered the UN a couplathree years back...

Appeasement of internal threats. The 7/7 bombings showed that within the home-grown population there were people who hated Britain so much that they were willing to kill themselves and their fellow countrymen in suicide bomb attacks. Although the situation is beginning to improve from the darkest days of 'Londonistan' That would be the Melanie Phillips polemic that was rejected by 20 major publishing houses, right? That was three years out of date before it hit the shelves? That one? the British authorities have for many years tended to encourage extremism by only dealing with the more extremist 'representatives' of Britain's Muslims Now, I understand that rejecting diplomacy on the international stage is kind of possible if you've got the biggest guns. And I understand that there's some pretty extreme extremists out there. But what I don't understand is how the hell you're supposed to stop bomb attacks from within the home grown population if you stick your fingers in your ears and pretend they're not there.... As Michael Gove MP has written, Michael Gove, eh? Shit. **gives up and goes home** this effective cold-shouldering of moderate voices is a repeat of the way Tony Blair promoted Sinn Fein's status at the expense of the SDLP during the Northern Ireland peace process. Yes, and we all know what a dramatic failure the Northern Ireland peace process has proved. Eh? Oh. And would that be the same SDLP whose leader, John Hume, sat on the Labour benches in the Commons?

The weakness of the transatlantic relationship. The special relationship between Britain and America has been historically central to Britain's national interests but is now in danger... because everyone from Number 10, the Foreign Office and the MoD right down to the man in the street has seen what a stupid bloody idea it is to follow the Americans in their Project for a New American Century. As Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas of Chatham House puts it, there was no evidence Mr Blair had been able to influence the Bush administration in "any significant way... loyalty in international politics counts for nothing". Washington sees Tony Blair - rightly - as a staunch ally but he will soon leave Downing Street and his successor will inherit the leadership of a country that is overwhelmingly hostile to the Iraq war - a war that many see as a war of choice and chosen by George W Bush and, your point caller? It was a war of choice and it was chosen by George W Bush and American Neocons. And who or what is "Washington"? Didn't Bush's Republicans just get annihilated at the polls? Bush may see Blair as an ally, but the Democrats who control the Senate and the House, and shortly the White House, see him as inextricably tied to Bush. Contrast with Brown, whose Democrat connection are impeccable and... wait a minute, I think the editor of Conservative Home has just outed himself as a Brownite.... Tony Blair has found it difficult to combine support for America with necessary criticism of US policy failures. Er, I think you'll find that's "US and UK policy failures". Or are you saying that we just do what we're told? Not much of a "special relationship"... The British people want In case, you weren't aware, editor of Tim Montgomerie is officially the voice of the British people. That means you, citizen now to see a reassertion of Britain's national interests and the challenge for Britain's next government is to persuade voters that US and UK interests are closely connected. So... that's a reassertion of British National Interest through subsuming British National Interest into a Foreign National Interest. It really is very simple...

By the way, you'll notice how the Falklands theme has been dropped by this paragraph. That's cos it's quite hard arguing for the Special Relationship view on the Falklands when the Reagan cabinet were split over the UK action. Reagan himself couldn't understand why two US allies were arguing the toss over "that little ice-cold bunch of land down there". Or, to quote Robbin Harris (as Tim does in his opening paragraph, above): "The Reagan administration could have signalled much earlier its opposition to such a mad venture. It preferred to equivocate, so as to retain the bibulous and unpredictable General Galtieri as an ally in its wars in Central America."

Decline of NATO. Membership of NATO was once a pillar of Britain's defence strategy yerrrrs, but so was the defeat of the Soviet Union. Or Spitfires. Or the application of blue face paint before battle. THINGS CHANGE. but NATO is a shadow of its former self. Many of its member states have been unable or unwilling to make any serious contribution to peacemaking operations in Afghanistan. And many have - 37 countries and 30,000 troops. And anyway, weren't we talking about the Falklands? What were the serious contributions made by NATO there?

Unfounded faith in the United Nations: Large sections of the British public - led by the BBC BOO!! HISS!! - have come to see the imprimatur of the United Nations as necessary for any military action to be legitimate. Well, they're not really "led by" the BBC, more by International Law Experts, or indeed anyone that can spell the words "Geneva" and "Conventions". The people of Rwanda and Darfur know that waiting for the UN to arrive at a resolution is a very dangeous thing to do. The people of Iraq, on the other hand... Last week's UN statement on the Iranian kidnapping fell well short of London's hopes "they didn't do as they were told = they were wrong" and we should not have been surprised. Three of the Security Council's permanent members - China, France and Russia - have a track record of putting commercial interests and relationships with unsavoury regimes before the high principles of the UN's founders. Whereas the other two, Britain and the US, have an untarnished record of acting completely without vested interest in the greater interest of mankind as a whole. Can I bring up Galtieri's status as a US ally again here? Or the fact that the Argentinian Navy fought the Falklands War with British-built Type 42 destroyers? Conservatives who are rightly sceptical about the multilateralist EU are too willing to give a benefit of the doubt to the UN. Nice. "Hate the EU? Hate the UN too! It's much more fun!"

The BBC Oh. For. Crying. Out. LOUD. Although the BBC has given extensive coverage to the hostage crisis it has not reflected the breadth of opinion in many of Britain's newspapers trans: The Mail where there has been much impatience with the Blair Government's weak response to the Iranian situation. The BBC has certainly been a leading contributor to public opposition to the war in Iraq. That's right: opposition to the war in Iraq is the result of the BBC. 2 million antiwar marchers in London were only there because of top secret subliminal brainwashing in the middle of Countryfile. There has been a relentless focus on the failings of the Iraq campaign but next to no analysis of how coalition forces might ensure that their mission succeeds. Here's a thought Tim: Perhaps no-one has Any Bloody Idea how to ensure "the mission" succeeds. What even is the mission? Coverage of the campaign's failures cannot be questioned but the lack of a balance is a failure of its public service mandate. This is one of the constant weaknesses of the British landscape. Note how renaissance man Tim makes the seemless segue from geopolitics to physical geography there. I think he's claiming that the Peak District was formed not by periglacial movement during the last ice age, but by Robin Day giving Willie Whitelaw a hard time during the hustings for the 1979 general election. Sadly, the great man doesn't elaborate. The BBC's sympathetic treatment of the Argentinians' claim to the 'Malvinas' was a great source of controversy in 1982. In 1982, Balance was Bad. In 2007, Balance is Good. But this is IN NO WAY hypocritical. Got that?

Little strategic thinking. There are very few thinkers in Britain who are preparing for future threats. not like the Philosopher Kings of the Thatcher Government, who removed the only Royal Navy ship from The Falklands three weeks before the invasion. There is, for example, no appreciation of the likelihood of nuclear proliferation and there was me thinking that Trident was renewed last month and the need for missile defence as our only likely protection. That'll be the missile defence that doesn't actually protect Britain. At all.

A distracted Opposition. These weaknesses that Tony Blair will bequeath to his successors are an enormous burden. The Party of Margaret Thatcher Does he realise that those initials are PMT? has every chance of winning the next election and has decided that discussion of public services and climate change is much more likely to win that election trans: we're all cute n cuddly right now, but as soon as we get into No.10 we'll be breaking out the SA-80s and yomping across the Middle East like Suez never happened... That is understandable but is not likely to steel the British public for the sacrifices that future stages of the war on terror will undoubtedly demand "Steel the British public?" Sounds like Tim foresees a new Blitz... Anderson Shelters in the garden? Ration cards in Starbucks? Clockwork internet? It is also unclear if many British Tories have the strategic clarity that Tony Blair has shown since 9/11 But you just said that we are in the middle of a "weak response" to the Iranian situation. I'm confused. Oh wait, this is on, which means you can't criticise Tony Blair for the response to 9/11 cos the Yanks won't have it. Know Your Audience. A clarity that was never, sadly, translated into effective applications. "Tony means well, bless him, but he's a bit fick".

And what exactly are the Opposition "distracted" by? I think what Tim means is "A Shit Opposition". But he doesn't want to crap on his own doorstep.

And that is that... well thought out, meticulously researched and rhetorically flawless.

Well, my bit was.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Keeping your trap shut

We're constantly being told that trust for politicians is at an all time low. That's because we don't know what politicians bloody *do*. Show an average voter a picture an average feed from the House of Commons and the first thing they'll mention is that there's practically no-one in there. The obvious conclusion is therefore that all the snout-in-trough lazy bastards are pissed in the bars. And the distrust of politicians is reinforced.

So MPs have voted themselves an extra £10k each for communications. Good. How can it be a bad idea for politicians to have more communication with the electorate? If they waste the money, or have nothing to say because they haven't done anything, then we'll know. And we'll vote them out. If, on the other hand, we learn more about what our MPs are up to then maybe - maybe - we'll have a bit more respect for them. And that is worth £6.5m in my book.

The Tories claim it's another example of Labour politicians with their snouts in their trough, that it's a waste of public money, that it protects the incumbent. That last one is a gem: it only protects the incumbent if the incumbent has something to communicate: if they can point to a job well done. In that respect, it is a diadvantage to Tories because they'll have to work even harder to show that the sitting Labour and Lib Dem MPs are deserving of replacement.

But there's another reason why the Tories are unhappy with the Communications allowance.

Consider this. In the past two months, two Conservative politicians have been embroiled in race rows. Patrick Mercer was the Shadow Defence Secretary, while Brian Gordon is a Councillor in Hendon. I'm not going to go into the detail on these, others have done it already (or not, as the case may be).

But it's worth pointing that both episodes were sparked by the politicians themselves. They were not "outed" or "duped" (even though Patrick Mercer claims he was off the record). Councillor Gordon sent the offending photo into the local newspaper himself.

Say, for the sake of argument, that you were a Tory politician. One of the nice new ones that we keep hearing about. Worried about the environment, big fan of the NHS, solar panels on your roof, cycle to the golf club, all that.

Now, would you, as a New Conservative, really want all those nasty old-school Tories running off down to Prontaprint? With Jack Straw's ten large in their back pockets and their essays on why "multiculturalism is a failed experiment" scrawled on an old Garrick Club menu in their sticky paws? Would you?

No. Which is why all the Tories voted against the allowance.

If you can't trust a shadow cabinet member to keep his trap shut, how the hell are you going to trust 650+ Parliament Candidates?

The Big Right Winger Giving It Eyebrows At The Back Stick

If you've never read John Redwood's blog, you really are missing out: it's a peach. Deliciously placed midway between parody and rant, it brightens up an otherwise dull afternoon like finding a six-month old can of Stella that had rolled under the TV stand.

Take this entry. Our John tells us that there are no differences between the parties, only within the parties. Except, says John, for the Tory party. The Tories hate Cameron, says John, because they don't understand.

They will come to appreciate that “hugging a hoodie” before he goes off the rails does not mean their Leader is soft on crime, that sharing the proceeds of growth does mean lower taxes allied to economic prudence to avoid high interest rates, and seeking powers back from Brussels whilst keeping trade arrangements with our partners is the mainstream view in the UK.

I find the above sentence is much more fun if you imagine Johnny saying it with a vacant stare and an unsettling demonic half smile his normal expression while holding a dentist drill and standing over a shackled and sweating dissident Tory.

But he's a man of the people is Our John. He proves the point by donning the metaphorical sheepskin and sallying forth on the misfiring England footy team:

Of course when there are too many poor performances in a row we should ask if a different coach and/or captain would make a difference.

Gosh! Poor results leading to a change of boss? Bit radical isn't it? I mean, it's not as if fotball is famous for its high Manager turnover is it?

It maybe time to look at the whole organisation of the game and the league in England to see if an overseas player rule would give English talent more chance - and curb the costs for clubs.

Erm, doesn't his advocacy of an overseas player rule ignore one major incurred cost - the legal costs incurred for breaking EU freedom of movement legislation...? And how would this curb costs.

But if you think that the boy Johnny's farcical attempts to cash in on the popularity of football (albeit 15 years late) mark him out as some kind of Redwood-come-lately, you're wrong. He's got form. He penned a startlingly insightful prescis of the last World Cup.

Channeling Sepp Blatter, he bemoaned the paucity of goals in an average game and railed against the ridiculousness of the absurd offside rule (yes, really). Apart from advocating the end of the most iniquitous law since the introduction of the welfare state, the best bit is this:

Many talented players failed to deliver the fine free flowing attacking football we have seen on many occasions from Chelsea , Arsenal and other leading clubs.

Look again at that sentence. See the spaces either side of the comma after "Chelsea"? That's textbook. What's he done there is he's written out the paragraph minus the team names. Cos he didn't know em. Then he's looked them up on the internet ("Search Google "attacking football", ctrl+c, ctrl+v") and stuck em in the piece. The "...and other clubs" is good too: like when Chief Wiggum lists the world's major religions as "Christian, Jewish... and miscellaneous".

And Chelsea? Free flowing attacking football? I must have missed the memo...


Holy Mother Of God. A Post on John Redwood and I didn't add this...

Monday, 26 March 2007

Labour Future Tense

Yesterday, the Observer's headline, "Miliband Could Still Succeed Me: Blair", preceeded 800 breathy words on the Labour succession. In short, Blair thinks Miliband could beat Gordon, and Westminster is frothing with rumour and innuendo concerning the chances of Miliband standing.

Only problem is, Miliband ain't standing. Well, we presume he isn't, cos he ain't said nuffing.

Nuffing, that is, apart from his review of Tony Giddens' latest tome - a "review" which is actually only 1 part book review but 2 parts conference speech and 7 parts leadership manifesto. He's putting forward the "New Labour" stance, arguing against centralisation, paternalism and top down control (remind you of anyone?)

Word analysis:
"Brown" - 0 mentions
"Blair" - 1 mention
"Leadership" - 2 mentions
"Labour" 3 mentions
"New Labour" - 12 mentions

It reaches its shuddering climax thus (my emphases):

None will be solved without a different culture of politics recognising that while leadership comes from government, innovation and mobilisation comes from the bottom up. Devolution is not just a question of policy; it is the foundation for a renewed efficacy in politics. In the 1940s and 1950s, the dominant theme was 'I need'. Paternalist government was the result. In the 1980s, the cry was 'I want'. We all know what happened. In the 21st century, the driving ethos is 'I can'. People want to make a difference by taking decisions for themselves and with others. That is the basis for a new progressive project that builds post-Blair politics - bold Labour, not old Labour - of an exciting and attractive kind."

It's therefore just a shame that the Observer hacks didn't notice this bold and enlightened 900 word futurology. In their own paper. But after all, why would they? It was buried at the back of the Review section ferchrissakes and who reads that?

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Pete's Golden Rule

Sod prudence - when it comes to budgets, the golden rule is this:

The Red Book is massive and designed to hide and obfuscate the detail. There's no point trying to work out what it all says. Let someone else do it for you, and ignore the bloody budget until they have.

In the mean time...

This is amazing - a Buenos Aires Family who photograph themselves once a year, every year, and have done for the past thirty years. It makes me feel very, very mortal.

Hat tip: Bryan Appleyard

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Reading Hansard is *sooo* Billy Hague... but on this occasion it's quite useful. Have a look at the Delegated Legislation Committee last Friday, when the Equality Act (Sexual Orientations) Regulations were debated.

The Committee was out in full, but there were a number of guests. 24 MPs who were not members of the committee turned up to give their views - as they are entitled to do. Surprise of surprises, 23 were Tory (there was one Lib Dem).

Two funny bits, both from Chris Bryant:

Mrs. Laing: (speaking for the Tories) We support the principle of equality and we support the Equality Act 2006.
Chris Bryant: Hooray! (Camp as y'like)

And then there's this exchange with "Vulcan Johnny" Redwood...

Mr. Redwood: The majority of clothes shops in this country discriminate against me, as a man, because they sell clothes only for women. I see nothing wrong with that, because, fortunately, there are other shops that sell clothes only for men—[Hon. Members: “Come out, John, and be honest about this.”] We should not say to all women’s clothes shops that they have to sell clothes that are suitable for normal men.

Chris Bryant: Ah, normal. You would not stand a chance.

Mrs Laing did indeed vote for the regulations, as no doubt she was whipped*. This means that David Cameron can say that the Tories voted for the regulation and that they are open-minded paragons of 21st Century inclusivity.

But what he won't be saying is that 23 members of his party turned up with bulging eyes and scarlet cheeks to fulminate against this latest moral corruption by a Godless Government. (And if you don't believe me about the eyes and cheeks, check out Edward Leigh some time*).

That's 23 Tories up* at 8.30 on a Thursday morning. The ONLY thing Tories get up that early for is a bloody good foxhunt. Maggie Thatcher's funeral wouldn't get 23 Tory MPs at 8.30 on a Thursday morning. So there's some depth of feeling there.

Some of the Tories' speeches were... hmm. Int-eresting:

Dominic Grieve: (Yes, that one, the member of the shadow cabinet... but here purely as an interested observer) If a website designer who has Christian principles is asked to design a website promoting gay sexual (gaysexual?! Does anyone still say that?) relations—about which, I wish to make clear, there is nothing illegal... ("...disgusting and immoral perhaps, but nothing illegal...)

Tim Boswell: The only way in which I can register dissent is by voting against the motion on regulations that, in a sense, I wish to proceed with ("... so I can tell my Constituency Association I 'did the right thing' in the hope that they don't read this sentence, while at the same time appearing all touchy feely to Dave".)

Credit where it's due - IDS made a very sensible and even-handed intervention which did him credit:

"We want to make those points in a debate and to tease those matters out. We want to be able to tell our constituents, “We tried to get this changed,” or, “We got it changed,” or, “The Government listened and modified it.” The debate should be about modifying legislation and making it good, rather than just railroading it through because it was conceived by the Government—who, by the way, are not always right, whether they are Conservative or Labour."

But, of course, the committee divided and the Tories (as opposed to the Conservative Opposition) lost. So, will they be out tomorrow?*

*(Not in that way).

What the Swivel-Eyed Loons Don't Want Me to Know

This is truly jaw-dropping:

What struck me about it was that there is no attributable source. Who made it? The author of the video, according to youtube, is "campaign2007". The campaign referred to at the end is the Sexual Orientations Regulations Campaign". This produces a sum total of 0 direct google hits.

According to the end of it, the campaign is backed by MPs, Judges, Doctors and the majority of the British public.

So I'm going to pop along to the demo and see who I can see. (It's on Wednesday at 12, for one hour - nothing like a bit of hate filled bigotry to set you up for a *really productive* afternoon in the office - get the old juices flowing.) (Not like that).

If you're planning coming along, say hi if you see me! (I'll be the one in the arseless PVC chaps).

Hattip: Bloggerheads

Monday, 19 March 2007

From the New York Times letters page...

To the Editor:

The Irish, Scots and Welsh are suspicious that the pronouncement from the University of Oxford that they are genetically related to the English is a thinly veiled attempt at social climbing by the English.

James M. Farrell
March 12, 2007

(Great post here by Tom Watson (not that one) on the international roots of modern Irish mythology.)