Sunday, February 19, 2006

Small but interesting poll.

Have you seen the story today in the Observer today from Ned Temko and Svetlana Graudt?

"Frontrunners take Lib Dem battle to a photo-finish

Observer survey shows Hughes a distant third"

Statistically it isn't worth a bag of beans. They have simply asked Lib Dem constituency chairs . And not even all the chairs, just the 63 with Lib Dem MPs. And they only got 46 replies:

HUHNE - 18


However it does illustrate one point. Ming has the declared support of 31 Lib Dem MPs. But it seems likely that many of those MPs have constituency chairs who are voting for Chris.

Anyway, this might be my last post about the leadership election until we get the result. Time to move on to other things...

In honour of Ben Franklin

Jonathan Calder and Nick Barlow both quote Benjamin Franklin today. He is one of my historical heroes . Of all the statesmen and scientists that I've ever heard of, he's one of the ones I'd like brought forward in a time machine and elected onto our local council.

If you are interested in the great man, my favourite search engine Clusty has a special Ben Franklin portal

"a comprehensive, one-stop site that includes carefully curated educational resources, Franklin's own writings and proverbs, and tens of thousands of websites scattered throughout cyberspace. Befitting this founding father's leadership in establishing the country's first public library, this free site, in honor of his Tercentenary, is accessible to anyone with an internet connection."

CORRECTION: Jonathan didn't quote Ben Franklin today, however Nick linked to something that Jonathan had written about liberty and then Nick quoted Ben Franklin. Sorry for the error! However both quoted Shirley Williams. And having listened to her on Desert Island Discs recently - an absolute delight - I'd probably have her on my all-time council as well. Hmmm, better stop now before I drift into Dr Who territory.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

J. frowned and turned down the radio. “The last time this happened,” she said, “the area was raided.

I've been feeling guilty over the last few days - too busy with family, work and ward issues to do any blogging.

In particular, I've not had time to properly respond to those posts with titles like "1001 things I don't like about Huhne now that he's ahead of my candidate in the leadership race" and "Chris Huhne is too dull to be a Prime Minister , unlike uh, John Major or uh, Gordon Brown"

But I've been thinking about Chris' comments in the Question Time debate last week. They were something on the lines of 'In Iraq we are seen by the population as part of the problem, not part of the solution'. A week ago I wasn't quite convinced by what he was saying. But now his comments seem quite prescient in the light of the past few days' disclosures.

I don't have any answers. But for a reminder of what life is like right now in Baghdad, please, please read this from Baghdad Burning.


It was a bad day for 78 year old Harry Whittington when he was shot last Saturday by Vice-President Cheney in a hunting accident. At least the poor chap is still alive, even after a consequent heart attack. There's an element of farce here.

However while surfing, I stumbled across a couple of truly tragic events.

Back in August, my very first post was about the little town of Galion , Ohio (pop 11341) which had massive financial problems after it's finance director had embezzled some of the town's cash. He tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head, but survived, blind.

I thought I'd do a Clusty search for Galion and see how the town was managing...

I found this
GALION FEB 14TH - The death of a 10-year-old boy found shot inside his home Wednesday was a suicide, a coroner ruled Monday.

Alexander Stone, 465 Wine St., died of a gunshot wound to the head, Franklin County Coroner Dr. Bradley Lewis said. A preliminary autopsy was completed this weekend.

Matt Stone, the boy's father, said his son was a sensitive child who had recently been having trouble in school.

and from three weeks earlier, this:
A 16-year-old boy who accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend was charged today with a delinquency count of reckless homicide.

Crawford County prosecutors did not release the boy's name today.

Mount Gilead teen Lindsey Sligar, 17, was shot to death at her boyfriend's Galion home yesterday.
Valerie Sligar, Lindsey's mother, said today that her daughter was a senior at Northmor High School getting ready to graduate.

"She was working so hard," Sligar said of her daughter. `She didn't deserve to die." Lindsey was pronounced dead at Galion Community Hospital at 6:20 p.m. yesterday, about 80 minutes after authorities received a 911 call from the home.

"It looks like horseplay in the bedroom," police Chief Brian Saterfield said.
Police recovered a .380 semiautomatic handgun.

Sometimes, life can be unbearably cruel. And Galion seems like the archetypal American small town - "Big Town Close, Small Town Cozy"

A bit more work needed on the dark horse's profile.

The Lib Dems in our little corner of Essex are fairly well split between the three candidates, although I'm pleased to say that Chris seems to have the most first preferences.

I was perturbed however , by a friend who told me that he'd given first preference to Ming Campbell and second preference to Geoff Hoon.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Futures's Bright - Picking the best candidate rather than the least worst

Over at Inner West, Simon Mollan writes:

So now that Oaten has bitten the dust, Hughes has imploded, and prostrated, and Huhne’s moose has been hollering, there is only one candidate now worth considering: Ming Campbell.

Actually , I disagree. Although I'm sticking with Chris as first choice, I think we still have three candidates worth considering.

Ming looks a better leader than he did a month ago, and certainly will be stronger for being elected rather than for being crowned. Simon may have imploded, but is recovering better than I expected, and performed best last night. I would still be nervous about Simon being leader, but when talking to residents I've noticed he sometimes gets support and sympathy from unexpected quarters.

Chris did look a bit too smug at times, but looked much better once he became more passionate. I think he would do better up against another party , rather than with other Lib Dems. I'd love to see him in a debate with Gordon Brown... and I don't see him floundering over tax policies at press conferences in the next general election campaign.

Calling him looking smug may be a little unfair. He's run a campaign that has taken him from invisibly dark horse to apparent frontrunner. If I was in his shoes, walking into that debate ahead in the latest opinion poll (however uncertain those figures may be), I think I'd have a slightly odd expression on my face. Consider how Ming did so badly at his first PMQs... Chris has run the best of the three / four campaigns, which should be a factor taken into account when deciding how to vote.

As the campaign has gone on, I think we are looking better and better as a party. The three of them together looked pretty impressive. A more convincing threesome than Blair, Prescott and Brown. And after Dunfermline...

Hint to Ming re Prime Minister's Questions

You know that cheap jibe he made at you at your first PMQs about "failing organisations".

Any chance of reminding him about that next Wednesday?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Government - an enemy of localism

So the goverment is getting closer to scrapping district councils , and maybe cancelling the 2007 elections.

So far, so expected. It follows the trend of combining the police into superforces, and amalgamating Primary Care Trusts.

Serving on a council that is forced by central government to be one of the lowest spenders per person in the country, I don't need to hear any preaching from Labour on how to cut costs. Our residents don't ask me for council reorganisation. But many of them are grateful that our council is small and local.

Seems a good issue for the new leader to campaign on, whoever he will be!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Localism is going to be an important campaigning issue for the party. Posted by Picasa

Getting too close to call?

To quote from Mike Smithson today at Political Betting:

"Information has been leaked to me this afternoon about the YouGov Lib Dem members poll which has been the subject of much speculation.

My informant tells me that the survey was commissioned by a wealthy backer of Ming Campbell who is also a big donor and he told me his name.

I was given the figures of Campbell 40%: Huhne 34% and Hughes 24% on first preferences. My information is that while the Hughes second preferences would split in Huhne’s favour they do not split enough for him to win."

I don't trust leaked polls. But it makes you wonder - how close does the result have to be to allow a recount?


Monday, February 06, 2006

Why I'm glad Chris is standing - even if he doesn't win (though I hope he does!) Posted by Picasa

The Reasons for Voting For Chris Posted by Picasa

Someone Else's View

I saw this on Political Betting tonight, gives an interesting view of Chris Huhne:

Just got back from the Cardiff hustings. My position before going was undecided, but tending to put Hughes at 3 because of the poor handling and judgement of the last few weeks. The format of the evening was speeches then questions.

Simon was first, and as usual he was passionate and spoke without notes. He was coherent too. Chris spoke well, and was not monotonous. I had never heard him speak before and was pleasently surprised as I I have heard some people say “boring”. Content was good, but after Simon, his use of notes was noticeable. Ming was good for content, also used notes a bit, but has a bad throat and didnt project. Round 1 goes Hughes 3 points, Huhne 2 points, Campbell 1 point.

For questions, all spoke without notes, and all spoke with passion. Simon however, drifted at times - as he can when unscripted. Ming’s content was good, but no more. Chris really excelled here; content was great, and when not reading from notes he projects well and the passion comes ever well. Round 2 goes Huhne 3 points, then the other two tie for 1.5 points.

Overall I make that:
Huhne: 5
Hughes: 3.5
Campbell 2.5

Still not fully decided, but I’m tending to Huhne. I would be content with any as leader though, they all showed themselves to be capeable.
by Mark February 6th, 2006 at 11:24 pm

But we won't know until ....

So now we have 5 people dead in Afghanistan during protests against the Danish cartoons.
I've looked at an interesting debate at, for example:
I'm quite troubled over the cartoon controversy in Denmark, not because of the cartoons themselves, which I agree are offensive, but rather, because of the absurd overreaction of Muslims worldwide. We haven't learned from the Rushdie affair - this is yet another instance where we've gone out of our way to make ourselves look stupid.

And as far as cartoons doing little harm, you should reflect on the power of imagery. What image comes to most people's mind when Jesus is mention. Proably a white man with long hair or whatever most people have seen. These images disgrace the dignity of the Prophet and will be the first thing non-Muslims visualize when they hear his name.

For once I agree with Oliver Kamm:
There is a common view that, while publication of the original cartoons was justified, their emergence as a cause of friction entails that they should not be republished. As Parris notes, this has it the wrong way round. The cartoons are indifferent, crude and unfunny, and ought not to have found editorial space when submitted. Now that they have caused widespread offence, it is imperative that they be widely published and circulated.

But I also agree with Lib Dem MEP Sajjad Karim:

"Muslims should have no issue with the Danish people as a whole - one of the most open and tolerant societies in the world. I would urge all sides now to climb down and treat this as a hard lesson in building inter-cultural ties."

I think it was right for newspapers - and bloggers - to have republished the cartoons. But newspapers can't go on republishing for ever - they are ephemeral productions. It also may be time for the images to disappear from some of the internet - if they are in a newspaper for one day, they don't need to be on a website for months or years. But they should be there somewhere, so that people can see them for themselves.
I accept that millions of people have been greatly , dreadfully, upset by these cartoons, but that's because what was a local issue in Denmark (not exactly the centre of the Islamic world) has been poisoned by the deliberate addition of three 'fake' cartoons and inflamed by people in the Middle East with a remarkable ability to procure Danish flags at short notice. It's intimidation and bullying of free speech in Europe.
Some may think it has been successful intimidation. I dearly hope not. There's no need to 'test the waters' for the sake of it. But we won't know if the intimidation has worked until someone has a good reason to produce something else that is acceptable by Western standards but not to Middle Eastern flagburners.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

My Turn

By Gracious Command of John Bright's Body

7 things to do before I die:

1. Visit Sharon.
2. Write a book
3. Have a Italian meal with the family - in Italy
4. See a Test Match
5. See a whale
6. Go to Lesbos again - this time in the spring
7. Celebrate the fourth millenium.

7 things I cannot do:

1. Whistle
2. Sing
3. Play a musical instrument
4. Pronounce the 'sh' sound properly, amongst others.
5. Go 24 hours without sleep.
6. Make my tongue curl upwards.
7. Stay tidy for more than , oh, 1 hour

7 things that I like about my county

1. Rayleigh's wide High Street, the church bells. - and the tasty bacon-topped pork pies at Byford's. The election day snack of choice for both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.
2. Hyde Hall Gardens - up on a hill - and their excellent restaurant - Gooseberry Wine, mmm...
3. The unfashionable Southend United - now top of League 1 , as it happens
4. The archetypal English village of Finchingfield - where I took my wife on our first date. It worked for us....
5. Some favourite pubs - such as the Bull in Hockley, the Worlds End in Tilbury, and the Barge and the Hawk in Battlesbridge.
6. Hockley Woods
7. Darwin's Beagle - finally expired near Paglesham?

7 things I often say:

1. “Give me five minutes"
2. “I said, five minutes "
3. “Well , five more minutes then"
4. “Good morning, sorry to bother you, but I'm one of your local councillors..."
5. “No, I didn't watch that"
6. “What time is dinner?"
7. “Have you got a spare agenda?"

7 books that I love re-reading:

1. A Civil Campaign - Lois McMaster Bujold
2. Surely You're Joking Mr Feynmann - Richard Feynmann
3. The Mote in God's Eye - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
4. City of Illusions - Ursula Le Guin
5. The Stainless Steel Rat for President - Harry Harrison
6. Strong Poison - Dorothy L Sayers
7. Platinum Blues - William Deverall

7 movies I watch over and over again (well, more than once):

1. A Matter of Life and Death
2. Casablanca
3. Dave
4. Groundhog Day
5. Frequency (can bring me and another male friend to tears)
6. Witness
7. Ivan Vasilevich Changes Professions (in Russian - the USSR's closer approach to Monty Python)

It's too late to tag people now, but here's 7 more blogger-related things I'd like to do in say the next 7 years:

1. Watch a Livingston match with Stephen Glenn
2. See Peter Black in action in the Siambr.
3. Hear Kim Ayres play the mandolin. Or the bouzoki. Or the guitar.
4. Pop in to Roger Owen Green in his library in Albany
5. Have lunch with Daniel Drezner.
6. Find time to get to James Graham's Liberal Drinks if he does another one
7. Have a peep a Jonathan Calder's bookshelves. I suspect they are impressive...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Huhnes's afraid of Chris Huhne?

Well, the campaign continues apace. I've even bought a Huhne T-Shirt from Ryan's site!

But to write on a more serious level, the contest still seems to be a close one. Chris's best chance is to edge Simon Hughes into third place, and then get enough of Simon's supporter's second preferences to win by what would probably be a narrow margin.

A lot of the discussion during the campaign has been on which of our candidates would do best in warding off the challenge from a resurgent Tory party - and most say it would either be Huhne or Campbell.

But there's the other side of the coin - which candidate or candidates would Labour fear most? Who is the candidate that could really give Gordon Brown a hard time?

Warning: this post may offend.

I think the first TV I saw that could be classed as possibly offensive to a religious group was Me Mammy

This was back in the late 60s . It featured Milo O'Shea an Irishman in the UK, frequently frustrated by his mother's interference in his life. It also cocked a snook at the Catholic Church - I dimly remember one episode where they were playing a (board game called Popeopoly. Of course , after nearly 40 years I only remember this show because it was very funny. (As an aside, Milo played Durand Durand in Barbarella , after which character the group Duran Duran were named)

Then there was one of the all time great comedians Dave Allen:

A man goes to heaven, and St Peter shows him around. They go past one room, and the man asks: "Who are all those people in there?" "They are the Methodists," says St Peter. They pass another room, and the man asks the same question. "They are the Anglicans," says St Peter. As they're approaching the next room, St Peter says: "Take your shoes off and tiptoe by as quietly as you can." "Why, who's in there?" asks the man. "The Catholics," says St Peter, "and they think that they're the only ones up here." ... and that was one of his weaker jokes. A very funny, very gifted man.

and also Not the Nine O'Clock , with their great song lampooning Ayatollah Khomenei. I still remember some of the lyrics without looking them up;

There's a man in Iran,
That I can't resist
Most revered, kind of weird,
Got this chick in a twist
Ayatollah, Khomenei closer
And I will fall for your charms...

Then there was the Life of Brian. "The greatest work of religious skepticism ever put on the screen ". A very funny film, lampooning religion, Jesus, stammerers and members of fringe political parties. I liked it, and I had a pretty embarassing stammer then,

The only time I felt that something was so offensive in a religious connection that it should be discouraged from taking place was as a student, visiting Lewes in Sussex on Bonfire Night. In this town they celebrate November 5th in a big way, with bonfire societies preparing special displays , some maintaining the old anti-catholic tradition. Seeing a crowd of thousands yelling "Burn the Pope! Burn the Pope!" as an effigy of the Pope was thrown onto a bonfire was something I found quite chilling. Even if this case, it was more the burning of an individual than any mocking of a religion that I disliked. But if I was a Catholic I think I would have felt threatened by that atmosphere .(I've no objections to bonfires, it's burning people in effigy that I dislike, and back in the late 70s the impression was that they were burning the contemporary Pope , not a historic figure).

Which brings me to recent events. It's great that the government was defeated last night over the incitement to religious hatred bill, but what's happening over the Danish cartoons , which I had written about a while ago, should really concern us. Freedom under the law needs to be freedom in real lfe.

I've no doubt that depicting Muhammed is offensive to a lot of people.But I believe in the freedom of speech, within limits, and these cartoons lie well inside the limits of acceptable, legal behaviour in a modern liberal democracy.

We should have the right to go through life without feeling threatened , but we don't have the right to go through life without being offended. Not me, not you, not anyone. I don't like offending people but occasionally we have to demonstrate our right to freedom of comment even if we know it will cause some offense.

Update: there is very comprehensive info on Wikipedia

An interesting approach to the religious /secular divide

So this chap in Chicago goes on Ebay and says I'm an atheist, but for each $10 I will ....

(found via Marginal Revolution)

... and this chap's own blog is here
Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

I write this blog in a private capacity , but just in case I mention any elections here is a Legal Statement for the purposes of complying with electoral law: This website is published and promoted by Ron Oatham, 8 Brixham Close , Rayleigh Essex on behalf of Liberal Democrat Candidates all at 8 Brixham Close.