Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Rowan and Evan Laugh-In

Evan and Rowan were very concerned: "The Government still wants the legislation to cover religiously-offensive insults, even though comedians fear this could lead to censorship – even self-imposed censorship – of any jokes ridiculing religion.

Rowan Atkinson, who has led the campaign against the planned law, said ‘I am deeply concerned for all performers and entertainers, because the climate in which we work will be very different if the government gets its way.’

Liberal Democrat human rights spokesman Evan Harris added the new law would create a ‘chilling effect that would stifle free expression’ ".

But it's been a GREAT night for freedom of speech: " The government suffered a shock double defeat tonight over its plans to combat religious hatred.
In a humiliating blow to Mr Blair's authority, MPs voted by 288 to 278, majority 10, to back a key Lords amendment to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

In a second vote, MPs voted by 283 votes to 282, a majority of one, to back a second key Lords amendment to the bill. The result was greeted by loud cheers from the Tory benches and cries of "resign!" ".

Serves him right ha ha ha : "Analysis of the division list showed the prime minister voted in the first division but not in the second, which was lost by one vote."

I'm very pleased. And well done Mark Oaten. As Sandra Gidley blogged (very promptly):
The second vote was won by a majority of one so it's a good thing that the Member for Winchester turned up and voted appropriately.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'm a Democrat!

So I'm a Democrat (just!) ... Thats a relief - always thought I was.

I found this test thanks to Femme de Resistance

You are a

Social Liberal
(60% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(20% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

A friend's thoughts on Huhne

I had an email yesterday from a Lib Dem friend (not the one in my previous post!) who had the following thoughts - not simply pro-Chris Huhne, but highlighting how important environmental and resouces issues are, and why it's a good thing that Chris is focussing on them:

I was looking at various leadership campaign sites and I came across your blog. I have also opted for Chris Huhne, not on the basis of the scandals but because I view it as I would if recruiting Chief Executive for a large business. On this basis I believe Huhne is the best candidate with experience of the press, economics, business leadership and working with Parliamentary Committees, albeit in the EU, because this history leaves a whole trail of experience, contacts and understanding how the system works. I believe the future will involve much that will be about the environment and the economics related to that.

On a related subject. I was talking to someone who has recently come back from Oil installation safety work in Saudi Arabia. He was saying that they are pumping sea water into the ground to keep the oil pressure up but they are now seeing sea water with the oil and he believes the reserves may be only 30% of what is claimed. If this is so then we may have major environmental and energy concerns quicker than is generally believed because Saudi is relied on by the West to change their output to keep the price and supply steady.

Friends Reunited

Becoming a Blogger4Chris has given me one unexpected pleasure. One of my former colleagues on Rochford DC saw me on the Huhne website and has got in contact with me again.

Trevor Powell succeeded me as our group leader back in the 90s before work took him away to Suffolk. He and and his wife Nita are now considerably further north, running a bed and breakfast in Avoch, Ross-Shire! Trevor is still active as a Lib Dem , being constituency secretary in Charles Kennedy's constituency...

For anyone looking for a Lib Dem B&B for 18 pounds per person per night, have a look at their website .

Friday, January 27, 2006

What idiot wants a "pacy news briefing" at 5.30 am?

I work at funny hours. I think Radio 2 is best between midnight and 6 am and that Up All Night on Five Live is pretty decent as well.

And I'm annoyed with Radio 4 for wanting to scrap the UK Theme at 5.30 a.m. to allow a "pacy news briefing". So I've signed the petition to keep it.

Baffled? Always asleep at 5.30 am?

See the campaign website here.

See the Wikipedia entry here

See the BBC report here

Maybe I'm a conservative with a small c in the small hours.

Sorry, Simon

According to the BBC
Lib Dem leadership contender Simon Hughes has said the way he has handled media pressure after admitting gay relationships is a mark of his courage.

He said it showed "he was not afraid of dealing with things" - a quality "which might be a leadership criterion".

Sorry Simon, I'm sure it's been a stressful time for you, but the way that you've handled this , especially that you told the Telegraph that you weren't gay, doesn't boost your leadership credentials. Some folks from my neck of the woods - who voted for you last time, and who were supporting you this time - are deeply disappointed.

I agree with Niles:

Firstly anyone who has sex with men AND women ISN’T, strictly speaking, gay. But there’s no way he should have said what he said when he says he wasn’t gay. It’s just obvious he was setting himself up for this.
.. except that I would add that he was not only setting himself up, but his supporters and the whole party as well.

I expect to be in the Lib Dems until I die - and as I'm 47 , hopefully that's a long way off. Hopefully too, this week is a low point. But with the fun and games of the last couple of months I'm not a happy bunny right now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Try Clusty

If you are feeling unhappy with Google today becaus of what they are doing in China, why not try Clusty?

As the name suggests, it clusters its results, which can be very useful. For example if you search on Clusty for "Charles Kennedy" it can separate out for you the results concerning the Lib Dem politician from the results for a firm of attorneys in Texas , and from a New York naturalist.

I asked them today if they have any links or censorship deals with China, and their response was:

Hi, thanks for your interest. We haven't had any contact with the Chinese
government, which is unsurprising because we don't offer a Chinese
destination site.

Raul Valdes-Perez

I was impressed to get a reply from the CEO himself!

I would be interested to know if anybody in the Lib Dem blogosphere has already tried it.

Lost Graves

So we've got our first defector to the Cameronites - one Adrian Graves.
Came third with 17 percent at the last election. (Not a brilliant result, but our vote was up.)

I've got to say, how can someone whom the Independent portrays as such a reasonable chap make the mistake of defecting? I doubt he's hoping to be shoehorned into a safe Tory seat- so I'll assume he's doing it for the noblest of motives. But he's making a mistake here - if you want to create the sort of liberal Britain he seems to want, you do it by supporting- you guessed it - a party which consists of liberals.

As some Tories in my area - who use the word "Tosh" when talking about Cameron's policies - think and hope that Cameron might only last a year ,Mr Graves could be feeling a bit isolated sometime in the future...

However his defection will at least improve the average political farsightedness of both party memberships.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The First Liberal MP I ever met

It was around 1974 when I met ny first Liberal MP. I was too young to vote, but thought I myself as a Conservative. Even so , I went along to a local school hall in Rayleigh (the school where my mother attended in the late 1920s, and the one my son would one day go to).

There was an embarassingly small turn-out, but the chap made quite a good little speech, and he shook my hand and I took his photo (it's lost in a cupboard somewhere).

So for personal reasons I'm very pleased that Clement Freud (for he was the MP) is supporting Chris Huhne for the leadership.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Moonlight Endorsement

When I was a student I decided to have a cheap, adventurous, summer holiday trying to visit all the Liberal constituencies in the UK, on the basis that there weren't many of them, and that they were practically all in beautiful parts of the country. I started off in Ely, and after some mishaps and interesting encounters, gave up in a lay-by in the West Country.

It would be a pretty tough job now to visit all of our current constituencies in a fortnight's vacation. So although I know that it's been a very upsetting start to the year, we've had worse times. David Steel and Paddy Ashdown both took over at difficult moments in our history, and each time we recovered.

We are going to have a new leader soon, to follow in the footsteps of Charles, Paddy, David, Jeremy and Jo. I'm actually feeling more comfortable as the leadership campaign progresses that all three remaining candidates would, in their own way, be worthy leaders of our party.

But whom am I going to support? Chris Huhne has been the pleasant surprise package in the campaign. He has his disadvantages - he's only been in Westminster a short time, and with a perilously thin majority. His background of having been, amongst many other things, a Euro MP makes me rather cautious , because in Liberal Democrat terms I'm a Eurosceptic.

But he's left Brussels to be a Westminster MP. He's concentrating on the issues that I care most about - the environment of our planet, and on localism. He understands the big economics questions. He has the support of people such as Lynne Featherstone, whose opinion I value, and his victory would certainly quell any fears about any worthwhile members of our party switching to Cameron.

The clinching feature for me is that I think that the Liberal Democrat supporters that I see on the doorsteps - the readers of our local onlinefocus rather than this blog- will understand why I voted for him and be comfortable in supporting a party with him as leader.

Unless something dramatic and unexpected happens before I get my ballot paper, I will be giving my first preference to Chris Huhne.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Saturday Bombshell

So I sat down about 20 minutes ago to write about how I thought it had been a good week for the Liberal Democrats. We had held a county council by-election in Cambridgeshire, and the three remaining candidates for the leadership had all impressed me in different ways.

I had listened on my car radio to Ming doing a decent job at PMQs . We had also heard about Ming apparently turning down a cabinet offer from John Major some years ago - greatly to his credit that he refused it. So although I'm still not inspired by Ming, and he's still my third choice, I won't be too discomforted if he does win

As for Chris Huhne - well, I'm one of the people from our constituency who are nominating him. (in fact I offered to do so even before Chris's campaign website was up, because I wanted him in the race). However , I still haven't mind up my mind who to vote for out of Huhne and Hughes - both seem to be shining fairly brightly as the campaign progresses, and it's going to be difficult for me to make my mind up regarding first and second choices.

As for Mark Oaten - I wasn't so dismissive of him as some other bloggers had been, and he did seem to realise that crime is an important political issue. But I couldn't see him as a leader... and I was glad he had stepped down as a leadership candidate.

... and now it's emerged this evening that Mark Oaten has been apparently exposed by the News of the World for having an affair with a rent boy.

You have to feel sorry for Mark and his family. But what the hell was he doing trying to run for the leadership in these circumstances? It will be interesting to see what the public reaction is - will people be as supportive to Mark and his problems as they have been to Charles' drinking problem?

As someone who is far away from insider's gossip, I also wonder how many people inside the party knew anything about this.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Now here's a policy initiative

The BBC reports that the leader of the Liberal Democrats wants to make polygamy legal and will be moving an amendment in the spring parliamentary session to introduce it.

But it's the typical sort of publicity seeking behaviour that I expect from this man. If the circumstances weren't so tragic it would be funny.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Doing a good job

Clearly the Lib Dems in Broadland District are doing a good job, despite a traumatic week for the party. The Guardian reports that we held on to a seat there in a by-election on Thursday night. In a double-header election two years ago , the Lib Dems and the Tories won a seat each, so clearly it's a tight ward.

The result on Thursday:

Broadland district - Spixworth with St Faiths:

Bali Kular (Lib Dem) 902.
Conservative 469.
Lib Dem hold.

Swing 13.6% Con to Lib Dem.
(June 2004 - two seats Lib Dem 819, Con 785, Lib Dem 721 (Bali Kular), Con 628).

I was interested in the result , so I did a search in Vivisimo for "Bali Kular" and came up with some info from two rather different organisations.

One was from the Lib Dems own Flock Together website - hopefully proving useful!

The other was from a "White Nationalist" forum. Just to give you an idea of what they are like, one of them dislikes the BNP for criticising George Galloway. One contributor wrote " I agree, it's utterly disgusting. Nationalists of all flavours should applaud George's efforts on exposing the lies of the Zionazis. "The next poster added "I don't think the two words "Zionist" and "Nazi" can be linked together. One were an honourable decent people the other are utter scum."This is a comment I can probably agree with although possibly not in the way that the author intended.

Before the election they were disparaging , to say the least , about our candidate describing him as

" Spixworth with St Faiths- 1% residents are from minority ethnic groups. Obviously just a token ethnic. With not a snowballs chance in hell of winning, he is just there to fill Lib/Dem ethnic quotas."

They weren't very pleased with the result. "It beggars belief" one wrote.

So its clearly doubly satisfying that Bali won. Well done indeed. But it is rather chilling seeing who is out there making comments about ethnic minority candidates.

(and pardon me while I disinfect my keyboard)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Campbell, Oaten, Hughes, Hemming....

I've got to say, a contest between these four (if it happened) wouldn't get me excited or fill me with much enthusiasm.

I hope there's still time for someone else to emerge (A Campbell v Willis contest could get quite interesting, if Willis took it seriously)

On the other hand, I wasn't a fan of Charles Kennedy before he became leader...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pause for Thought

While most of us have been understandably preoccupied with Lib Dem problems, this is a time for thinking of the families of Rachel Squire and Tony Banks

When I saw the news report ,and particularly the photo , of Rachel Squire, it reminded me of Sylvia Lemon, who was my fellow Lib Dem ward councillor for 16 years. In her final year before she planned to retire, Sylvia was unanimously elected chairman of our district council. Cruelly, she fell ill a few weeks later and was diagnosed as having a brain tumour.

Sylvia had an amazing, inspiring and brave term of office, carrying out engagements in a wheelchair before dying just before the end of the civic year. It was greatly to his credit that our Local Tory MP , Mark Francois, paid tribute to her in the House of Commons.

Rachel Squire seems to have had a similar determination.

Life can be very unfair.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Au Revoir, not Adieu.

It's sad, but also a relief , that Charles has resigned.

I hope that he now has the time he needs to devote to himself, his family and his constituency before making a return to Front-Bench politics.

With luck, he has another 25 years in politics ahead of him.

That's all I want to say, don't think I have the mental energy to write much more anyway ...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Very Sad

It's a bad day.

Listened to Charles Kennedy on the car radio, parked on the driveway.

Sorry , but my first reaction is that I don't think he's a viable leader any longer.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I don't want a Coronation.

Political Betting has pointed out an article in the anti-Kennedy Times stating that

SIR Menzies Campbell is being lined up by senior Liberal Democrats to replace Charles Kennedy as leader of the party in a new year putsch.
With Kennedy under unrelenting pressure to resign, Lib Dem MPs are preparing to present him with a list of signatures calling on him to fall on his sword in favour of Campbell, the party’s deputy leader.

...Campbell is understood to be ready to serve if the leadership is handed to him in a dignified “coronation”. The analogy used by senior Lib Dems is that of the succession of Michael Howard as Tory leader in 2003, when Iain Duncan Smith, the then beleaguered Conservative leader, was forced to resign and his successor was handed power without a divisive leadership election.

Well, no thank you. I'm a democrat as well as a Liberal Democrat and funnily enough, I expect to be treated as such. If we are going to have a new leader we need to have an election.

Even if its a Campbell v Kennedy contest.

In which I would very probably vote Kennedy.

Which One Will You Vote For?

Liberal England: The great debate

The first interesting debate of 2006 is happening on Jonathan Calder's site...

Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Artistic Expression

I noticed that the BBC website reports that "Controversial images of Queen Elizabeth II, George W Bush and Jacques Chirac apparently having sex have been removed from billboards in Austria... ...Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel was not able to ban the posters but had appealed to the independent artists' group running the project to withdraw some of them."

Meanwhile Newspaperindex.com reports on twelve caricatures of the prophet Muhammad published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September.

Apparently the newspaper commissioned these deawings just to check and see if religious fundamentalism was affecting the freedom of the press in Denmark. The response has been pretty strong - apparently "United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - has appointed two UN experts on racism to carry out a detailed investigation into what Arbour characterizes as a “disrespect for belief.”" and now Franco Frattini, the Deputy EU commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, noting the publication as "foolishness and indiscretion" has condemned the cartoons. Meanwhile Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rassmussen is standing up for "freedom of speech and thought".

Well, the queen is the head of the Church of England, and I wouldn't like to see images of her having sex on billboards in the UK - nor of any other head of a religion or religious group. But the cartoons seem fair comment to me - I wouldn't like to see them banned under Labour's new laws.

Nor do I like the idea of the UN investigating "Disrepect for belief". I thought it was my right to be disrespectful to any belief if I want to be. There's a difference between disrespectful and being racist or hateful, isn't there?

Or am I being Islamophobic here?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

.. and a Happy New Year to you all

Not a bad start to 2006, saw a mixture of English and Russian TV last night (Bananarama performing on stage in Moscow!) and have celebrated by buying one of Ryan's hoodies .

Onlinefocus is starting to look reasonable , although there's a fair bit still to do...

Happy New Year to everyone!
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.