Sunday, August 31, 2008

To Those Who Criticise Palin...

... for her lack of experience, I just have one word for them: Cheney.

The left regard Cheney as the devil incarnate. But even they couldn't contest the fact that Cheney had huge experience of government and foreign affairs before he became Vice President.

I don't disqualify Obama from being President because he has no executive experience or real foreign policy experience. Neither did Clinton. Neither did Blair. Neither did Mrs T. Obama has had time to prove himself qualified to run for the Presidency. He passed that test with flying colours long ago, and that's why he won the Deomcratic nomination. Sarah Palin has yet to pass that test, and now has 68 days to do so. I don't know whether she will or not. But to write her off in the derogatory terms her opponents have done hitherto is ridiculous and worse.

A commenter in a previous thread, Conservative Cabbie, wrote this:

I'm genuinely curious. The posts you have made about Sarah Palin have been met with a lot of liberal bile (or should that be bilge). I don't remember seeing the left leave so many comments on your site before on any one subject, particularly an american one. Are you noticing this too or is it just me.

I think it is a relection that they are genuinly worried about what this means for Obama's chances. Because of her appeal to women, the working/middle class in the swing states and to the Rocky Mountain states, they are worried that she can genuinly affect this election.

I think he makes a fair point. Margaret Thatcher got this sort of abuse when she became Tory leader. In fact, she had it throughout her time in office too. No one could quite believe that
a housewife from Grantham could ascend to the leadership of the Conservative Party, let alone the country. Remind you of anyone?

UPDATE: Andrew Porter makes a similar point, quoting Norman Tebbit HERE.
UPDATE: Louise Bagshawe explodes some myths about Palin HERE.

Quote of the Week

"You can fool some of the people all of the time,
and those are all the ones you want to concentrate on."

George W Bush doling out campaigning advice.

Hattip: Tim Shipman in the Sunday Telegraph

The Desperation of the Left to Kill Sarah Palin's Candidacy: No 94

I'm not becoming obsessed by Sarah Palin,. I'm really not, but the desperation of the left to find a slam dunk scandal about her has now plumbed new depths. The hitherto respected Daily Kos Blog has THIS offering today, which alleges that her five month old downs syndrome child is ... wait for it ... not hers, but her daughter's.

It's the sort of thing that if Guido Fawkes had written it, the likes of the Liberal Conspiracy blog and many others in this country would shout from the rooftops about him of being a sexist muchraker and the spawn of the devil. This campaign is getting very dirty.

UPDATE: A commenter points me to THIS post which compares Palin's experience with that of Barack Obama.

UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter who provided a link to the above photo. It's clear she's not going after the vegetarian PC vote...

Global Warming: The Holes in the IPCC Report

Christopher Booker's column in today's Sunday Telegraph appears to blow a great hole in the ever expanding global warming industry. Today's religion of choice for the left (and some misguided souls on the right) is the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, which is supported by 2,500 leading scientists. As I pointed out on ANY QUESTIONS a few weeks ago, any scientist who questions its findings is dubbed a heretic and effectively drummed out of the 'brownies'. Here's the last section of Booker's article.
Initially the advocates of global warming had one huge problem. Evidence from all over the world indicated that the earth was hotter 1,000 years ago than it is today. This was so generally accepted that the first two IPCC reports included a graph, based on work by Sir John Houghton himself, showing that temperatures were higher in what is known as the Mediaeval Warming period than they were in the 1990s. The trouble was that this blew a mighty hole in the thesis that warming was caused only by recent man-made CO2.

Then in 1999 an obscure young US physicist, Michael Mann, came up with a new graph like nothing seen before. Instead of the familiar rises and falls in temperature over the past 1,000 years, the line ran virtually flat, only curving up dramatically at the end in a hockey-stick shape to show recent decades as easily the hottest on record.

This was just what the IPCC wanted, The Mediaeval Warming had simply been wiped from the record. When its next report came along in 2001, Mann's graph was given top billing, appearing right at the top of page one of the Summary for Policymakers and five more times in the report proper.

But then two Canadian computer analysts, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, got to work on how Mann had arrived at his graph. When, with great difficulty, they eventually persuaded Mann to hand over his data, it turned out he had built into his programme an algorithm which would produce a hockey stick shape whatever data were fed into it. Even numbers from the phonebook would come out looking like a hockey stick.

By the time of its latest report, last year, the IPCC had an even greater problem. Far from continuing to rise in line with rising CO2, as its computer models predicted they should, global temperatures since the abnormally hot year of 1998 had flattened out at a lower level and were even falling - a trend confirmed by Nasa's satellite readings over the past 18 months.

So pronounced has this been that even scientists supporting the warmist thesis now concede that, due to changes in ocean currents, we can expect a decade or more of "cooling", before the "underlying warming trend" reappears. The point is that none of this was predicted by the computer models on which the IPCC relies. Among the ever-growing mountain of informed criticism of the IPCC's methods, a detailed study by an Australian analyst John McLean (to find it, Google "Prejudiced authors, prejudiced findings") shows just how incestuously linked are most of the core group of academics whose models underpin everything the IPCC wishes us to believe about global warming.

The significance of the past year is not just that the vaunted "consensus" on the forces driving our climate has been blown apart as never before, but that a new "counter-consensus" has been emerging among thousands of scientists across the world, given expression in last March's Manhattan Declaration by the so-called Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

This wholly repudiates the IPCC process, showing how its computer models are hopelessly biased, based on unreliable data and programmed to ignore many of the genuine drivers of climate change, from variations in solar activity to those cyclical shifts in ocean currents.

As it was put by Roger Cohen, a senior US physicist formerly involved with the IPCC process, who long accepted its orthodoxy: "I was appalled at how flimsy the case is. I was also appalled at the behaviour of many of those who helped produce the IPCC reports and by many of those who promote it.

"In particular I am referring to the arrogance, the activities aimed at shutting down debate; the outright fabrications; the mindless defense of bogus science; and the politicisation of the IPCC process and the science process itself."

Yet it is at just this moment, when the IPCC's house of cards is crumbling, that the politicians of the Western world are using it to propose steps that can only damage our way of life beyond recognition. It really is time for that "counter-consensus" to be taken seriously.
I would love to hear Climate Change advocates counter this. Let's hear no more lines like "the argument is won". Articles like this demonstrate the opposite.

Peter Hitchens is Right About Sarah Palin

Peter Hitchens has got it bang on in the Mail on Sunday - and it's not often I say that.
Watch as the ultra-feminist sisterhood back away in horror from Sarah Palin, John McCain's new running mate.
Mrs Palin is technically female, but she's enthusiastically married, hates abortion and thinks criminals should not be the only people allowed to own guns. She's everything Hillary Clinton isn't. In short, she's the wrong kind of woman.

Which just goes to show that ultra-feminists are not actually interested in promoting women because they're women. They pretend they are, but really their agenda is a campaign against marriage, in favour of abortion and for every other disastrous liberal and socialist cause that ever existed. In which case, they really can't go on pretending that their opponents are women-hating bigots.

Not least because they are the bigots - merciless when it comes to a choice between their own convenience and the life of an unborn baby.

Perhaps I wouldn't put it quite in those terms, and I don't want to get sidetracked by the abortion debate, but Hitchens' point is valid. The left hate it when a woman succeeds on the right. They cannot stand it when a black person becomes famous as a Conservative - remember Ray Lewis?

The coverage of Sarah Palin in the Sunday papers borders on the sexist. She's dismissed as an inexperienced bimbo. Why is it that people describe her as inexperienced? Obama hasn't run anything, Biden hasn't run anything, McCain, so far as I am aware hasn't run anything. Palin has. She is the Governor of one of the 50 US States. OK, it's a small one, but were these charges really made so virulently against a certain Bill Clinton when he ran for the Presidency in 1992? Jimmy Carter in 1976? Neither of them had any foreign policy experience and both had been governors of comparatively small states.

I don't know a huge amount about Sarah Palin, but the left's reaction to her tends to indicate that they are deeply concerned by her electoral appeal. They're even dissing her as McCain's Dan Quayle. We'll see. For my own part, I like what I see so far.

Key Brown Aide Quits

The Independent on Sunday's Jane Merrick has an exclusive, alleging that Gordon Brown's top aide, Stephen Carter, is quitting Number Ten after losing turf wars over strategy. Number Ten has put out a denial, but Merrick is sticking to her guns and maintains the story is 100 per cent true and triple sourced.

More on this later...

UPDATE: Jane Merrick has blogged some more on this.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Poland's Got Talent

This Polish video is astonishing. I was sent it by the wife of an MP. Christ alone knows how she came across it... And Christ alone knows why she thought I would enjoy it. Can't think. But joking apart, doesn't it personify the concepts of teamwork and trust?

Perhaps Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan could do a reprise on the next series of BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT. On second thoughts, I think most of the audience would vomit.

The Trials of Alistair Darling

Alistair Darling's INTERVIEW in The Guardian this morning is more interesting for the tone of what he said, rather than actually what he said. Reading it, the feeling you got was of someone who had given up the ghost - who knew the game was up and was just going through the motions. The picture, by Murdo Macleod, accompanying the interview sends out one message: "We're doomed".

Tellingly, before the interview started, this is what his press adviser [Catherine Macleod] said to him...
"Now Alistair," Catherine tells him firmly when eventually we sit down for the interview, "tell her everything. Make sure you tell her everything."

What an astonishing thing to say. She's effectively saying, go on, dish the dirt, and don't worry about that the man in Number Ten might think - save your own reputation.

The contents of the interview have been reported ad nauseum elsewhere so I won't go into too much detail here, beyond saying that it is extraordinary that a Chancellor discovers how bad a shape we are in from reading the FT, rather than from Treasury officials.

Two other points. He absolutely dismisses talk of a reshuffle. This is fighting talk, as I don't recall a Minister ever doing something like that in such stark terms. Normally, the line would be "it's for the Prime Minister to decide". Darling said this...
"Frankly, if you had a reshuffle just now, I think the public would say, Who are they anyway? You name me a reshuffle that ever made a difference to a government, actually." Brown, he points out, had to make ministerial changes in January, following Peter Hain's resignation. "And you can't be chopping and changing people that often. I mean, undoubtedly at some stage before the end of the parliament he will want to do a reshuffle, but I'm not expecting one imminently. I do not think there will be a reshuffle."

I suppose his 'get-out' is the word imminently, as the consensus seems to be that it now won't be carried until until after the Labour conference, but even so, it is still an extraordinary stance for a senior minister to take.

Secondly, it is interesting to note his acpocalyptic description of the state of the economy, as the worst in 60 years. This contrasts with what Gordon Brown has been saying rather starkly. If the economy is in its worst state since World War II (a description which I think is utter rubbish, for what it's worth), people will understandably ask who is to blame. They might accept that the global economic situation is partly to blame, but they will ask why our economy is in recession when the US economy continues to grow at 3%, and why the Pound is sliding against every other major currency.

My overall impression from this interview was a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders who hasn't got a clue what to do next. He sounded like a businessman who knows his company is about to go bankrupt, and cannot come up with a Plan B.

Friday, August 29, 2008

How to Shame Americans into Voting for Obama

Newsweek columnist Jacob Weisberg has written what I can only describe as a deluded article for in which he essentially says that if Obama doesn't win it proves America is racist. This is the key passage...
If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

So, there you are America, vote Obama if you don't want the world to think you're racist. Never mind what his qualities are, never mind his experience, vote for him coz he is black. Weisberg is himself displaying a kind of racism.

It's like saying if English people don't vote for Gordon Brown it proves they hate the Scots. Or, dare I say it, it's like saying that because the voters of North Norfolk chose not to vote for me, they're all a bunch of neanderthal homophobes. What utter rubbish.

What Weisberg is doing is trying to shame people into voting for Obama. It's negative politics at its worst and runs entirely counter to the spirit of optimism which Obama has exuded throughout his campaign. Weisberg is an idiot.

Sarah Palin Open Thread

I'm on my way to London at the moment and have just heard the news that John McCain has selected Alaska Governor as his Vice Presidential choice. That should grab the headlines back from the Democrats!

Anyway, what do people know of Sarah Palin? Will she help attract former Hillary supporting Democrats? What will the Republican Party make of her selection? What's her record like in Alaska?


Obama Passes One Test But Fails Another

Well, I just about managed to stay awake for most of Obama's speech, but having got up this morning with what I imagine a hangover feels like I'm not sure I'm in the right state of mind to pass judgement on it. Anyway, here goes...

I think he just about avoided the Sheffield moment, although when he started by saying 'Thank you' and 'Thank you so much' repeatedly - I think I counted 70 mentions - while the crowd applauded him at the outset, I did wonder how it was going to turn out.

Obama is almost physically incapable of giving a bad speech. While the rhetoric in this speech did not match the soaring heights of previous speeches, it was always going to be difficult in a stadium environment. I thought he concentrated too much on individual anecdote - "the factory worker in Des Moines" or "the woman I met in Dallas". I can see the logic of doing this - showing empathy with individuals and their personal circumstances - but you can over do it. And he did.

The other thing he 'overdid' was the negative attacks on his opponent. According to ConservativeHome he mentioned John McCain 22 times, 21 of which were negative. Of course you need to attack your opponent in a speech like this, but somehow this attack didn't really hit home. When he said:
John McCain may want to follow Osama bin laden to the gates of hell, but he won't even follow him to the cave in which he lives...

... I scratched my head in bemusement. Was I alone in not having a clue what he meant by that?

Like many people, I was hoping to emerge from Obama's speech with a better idea of what he would actually do as President, rather than what his general approach would be. I admit I fell asleep for the last five minutes (!), but up to that point I had heard little that I hadn't heard before.

Obama doesn't need my vote - I don't have one. But I suspect there are many Americans who have a similar opinion of Obama to me. People who I would describe as 'soft Republicans' - people who were moved by Ronald Reagan's rhetoric and signed on to his optimistic view of life and the world. I wanted to be persuaded by Obama. I have already made clear that for the first time in my life I could consider not supporting a Republican candidate. But over the last few weeks I have slowly but surely been drifting back to the Republican camp having failed to be convinced by Obama.

Of course I recognise the historic moment of an African American getting the nomination. I applaud Obama's political campaigning ability. But for me there is something missing from his appeal. I love his optimism. I love his speaking style. But I have yet to fall in love with his policies. Largely because I still don't have a clue what they are. And he's only got 69 days to tell me.

McCain Shows His Class

A few hours before Obama rose to speak in Denver, John McCain put out this rather surprising campaign ad. It won't win him a single extra vote, but it was the right thing to do.

Telegraph Column: The Tories & the Internet

My Telegraph column today looks at how the Conservative Party is failing to harness the power of the internet in its campaigning strategy. I suggest, politely I hope, that it needs to stop paying lipservice to its web operations and get serious.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It Shouldn't Happen to a Proofreader

Just got the first issue of the new monthly PRESS GAZETTE. It's been transformed from newspaper format into an A4 glossy magazine. It will take some getting used to.

One person who won't be happy is Louise Greene. She has advertised her sub editing and proof reading services in the magazine.It's rather a shame that the advert is titled...

Lousie Green - Sub-editing/proofreading

Oh dear. Not quite so embarrassing as the time I sent out a flyer for a conference I was running which was headlined...

Pubic Relations for Absolute Beginners

I couldn't understand why it proved so popular!

It's a Right Wing Conspiracy!

The shamelessness of Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy knows no bounds. Yesterday he came over all holier than thou over a post Guido had written questioning Gordon Brown's mental state. And then only 24 hours later he has the gall to write THIS post ... questioning John McCain's mental state.

Whenever I meet Sunny I think what a nice guy he is - reasonable, pleasant, someone you can have a rational discussion with. And then I read what he writes... Mind you, he may feel the same about me.

Devil's Kitchen has a very different view of Mr H. What I am fascinated by is it that a blogger who prentiously calls his blog Liberal Conspiracy sees a right wing conspiracy where there is none? Perhaps we should invent a few right wing conspiracies just so there is some point to his blog's existence. Dizzy seems to agree...
There is something quaintly amusing about someone setting up a site with a name designed to mock the notion of left wing conspiracy theories, who then posts something arguing that there is some sort of right wing conspiracy going on.

PS Just for the avoidance of doubt, the fact that I have linked to Guido, Dizzy and Devil's Kitchen is not evidence in itself of a right wing conspiracy. Of course, if I added a link to Donal Blaney...

Who to Interview? The President of the USA or a Child Molester?

I've just finished reading the autobiography of American TV's most famous interviewer Barbara Walters. It was in many ways the best and worst of books, full of fascinating anecdotes but brimming over with namedropping, although if you have interviewed virtually every famous person in the world, I suppose you can hardly be blamed for that.

Walters started out in TV in the 1950s and blazed a trail for women in broadcasting. I can't really think of her British equivalent, but she is deeply revered in America. Her style of interviewing was/is hardly Paxman-esque and in some
ways she makes David Frost seem like an attack dog, yet she was brilliant at what she refers to as "the get". If Barbara Walters called, you did the interview. She decided to retire from co-anchoring her 20/20 programme in 2004 (at the age of 75!), partly because she was frustrated by the priorities of modern day TV executives. This extract from her book explains why...
If I had second thoughts about leaving 20/20, and sometimes in the wee small hours of the night I did, by morning they were gone... I was hoping that the last interview I would do on 20/20 would be with President Bush. I had put in a request to interview him. I was told he would consider it. Earlier int he summer, however, I had received a whispered phone call from a woman names Mary Kay Letrouneau. She had recently been released from a seven year term in prison for her sexual relationship with an underage student named Vili Fualaau ... She now said she was consdiering telling all about her experience and would I be interested in doing the very first interview since her release. I said yes and hoped I could do it in August or early September. But Mary kay couldn't make up her mind... Finally she did, just a week before my last day on air ... While I was weighing this, a call came from President Bush's office. he had agreed to do the interview with me. Were we ready to commit for next week?

The president of the United States or a convicted child molester? The president? the chold molester? The president? The child molester? The powers that be chose the chld molester.

I rest my case.

An incredible tale, but symptomatic of the way of modern television. Chase the ratings, never mind the content.

How Far Advanced Are Miliband's Plans?

PR Week's David Singleton has a cracking STORY about David Miliband's supposed leadership campaign. It alleges that he has already recruited a putative Director of Communications in the affable D-J Collins, who currently performs the same role for Google in the UK. Not only that, Singleton also names the six people who are advising Miliband on any leadership bid. The story looks very well sourced, I must say.
The Foreign Secretary is keen to have D-J Collins, European communications director at Google, as his director of communications should be become PM. It is not known whether Collins has agreed to the plan. Miliband would also find a place in the team for Jonathan Kestenbaum, the well-connected chief executive of Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). Kestenbaum is said to have told friends he would take chief of staff.

Miliband is also believed to have a campaign manager in place. Alan Donnelly, chairman of the lobbying firm Sovereign Strategy, has been asked to perform the role. The three men are part of a six-strong inner circle already providing discreet help to Miliband in a personal capacity. Other members of the inner circle are former Downing Street head of policy Matthew Taylor and Miliband's current top special advisers Sarah Schaefer and Madlin Sadler.

There's not much going on in political news at the moment so expect the Westminster lobby to be on to this like a rat at a trap. Miliband and his spokespeople will of course indulge in plausible denial, and it may well be that discussions haven't gone quite as far as this. But even if Miliband himself has not been present at any meetings, I would be very surprised this band of helpers hadn't met to discuss a few 'what if' scenarios at the very least. That's what happens in advance of leadership campaigns. But one of them has committed a cardinal sin. They have leaked.

Is This a Dagger I See Before Me?

On the last night (Wed 24th Sept) of the Labour Party conference in Manchester, when the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won, there is a special performance of Macbeth at the Salford Lowry Centre, performed by the National Youth Theatre, and that's where you'll find local MP Hazel Blears and her husband…

A play about plotting and assassination…a nice change from Labour Party conference.

'If it were done when ’t is done, then ’t were well It were done quickly.'

Obama (and Cameron) Must Beware of Sheffield

The Democratic Convention in Denver closes tonight with the Second Coming. So carried away with his own popularity is Barack Obama that the Convention Centre is being abandoned and the Chosen One will be descending on 80,000 people in a nearby sports stadium. I am not sure if this is advisable. It made me think of Labour's 1992 triumphalist Sheffield Rally - but then I discovered Donal Blaney had got there before me. Although I do not go along with those who thought that single event lost Labour that election, it reinforced people's view that Labour was getting a bit too pleased with itself, and counting too many chickens. That's exactly how the US media is reporting Obama at the moment.

There's a lesson here too for David Cameron. It is reported that Cameron's advisors are looking for a bigger venue than the Birmingham ICC for his close of conference speech. My advice? Forget it.

Top 50 LibDem Blogs

1. LibDem Voice
2. People's Republic of Mortimer
3. Norfolk Blogger
4. Quaequam Blog
5. Liberal England
6. Lynne Featherstone MP
7. Millennium Dome Elephant
8. Peter Black AM
9. Love & Liberty
10. Liberal Burblings
11. Cicero's Songs
12. Because Baronesses Are People Too
13. Neil Stockley
14. Jock Coats
15. Stephen's Linlithgow Journal
16. Lindylooz Muse
17. Schneider Home
18. Yorksher Gob
19. Dib Lemming
20. Real Blog
21. Hug a Hoodie
22. Jo Christie-Smith
23. Orange by Name
24. Just 474 to Win
25. A Load of Old Stodge
26. Jonathan Fryer
27. Jo's Jottings
28. Fraser Macpherson
29. Lanson Boy
30. Liberty Alone
31. Redlands Liberal Democrats
32. Anything Caron Can Do
33. Brian Robson
34. Suz Blog
35. Wit & Wisdom
36. Wouldn't it be Scarier?
37. Anders Hanson
38. Eric Avebury
39. Irfan Ahmed
40. Neil Woolcott
41. Paint the Town Orange
42. Sound of Gunfire
43. Antony Hook
44. Caron's Musings
45. Disgruntled Radical
46. Do What You're Told
47. Gavin's Gaily Gigest
48. A Radical View
49. Bridget's Blog
50. Susan Gaszczak

These blogs were voted for by the readers of more than 60 UK political blogs and the readers of TOTAL POLITICS Magazine. Each person voted for their top ten blogs. Their favourite was awarded ten points, their second favourite nine points and so on down to one point. 1,142 people cast a vote.

The full results will be published in the Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9 which is published on 5 September and will be available at all the party conferences. You can now also pre-order it via the Total Politics website for £12 inc p&p. You will receive it in mid September.

Welcome Back Harry's Place

A Sheffield academic called Jenna Delich seems to have successfully persuaded the ISP for the left wing Harry's Place blog to withdraw its service. She is apparently upset that Harry's Place posted the fact that her own website links to that of the American white supermacist, David Duke. Oops, I just did it too. Perhaps if you have a blog you might like to do the same and show this idiot of a so-called academic what free speech actually means. You see, she clearly has difficulty with it. She supports the idiotic, and racist, academic boycott of Israel.

Wouldn't you just love to be one of her students?

What is worrying here is not that she has threatened libel proceedings, it's that on the basis of a very tenuous allegation, Harry's Place's ISP has withdrawn its service without so much as a by your leave. This happened once before when the Uzbekh billionaire Usmanov did the same thing to another left of centre blogger, XXXXX. Whatever one's politics or beliefs, it's worrying that ISPs are reacting in this way. I am not sure there is anything one can do about it, but it could happen to any of us.

Harry's Place is now back online (I just checked) courtesy of a new ISP. But the fact is that it should never have had to go offline in the first place.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Top 40 Scottish Blogs

1 Tom Harris MP
2 Mr Eugenides
3 SNP Tactical Voting
4 J Arthur MacNumpty
5 Kezia Dugdale's Sopabox
6 Scottish Tory Boy
7 Ideas of Civilisation
8 Two Doctors
9 Scots and Independent
10 Adam Smith was a Socialist
11 Stephen's Linlithgow Journal
12 Freedom & Whisky
13 Indygal
14 Tartan Hero
15 Blether with Brian
16 Doctor Vee
17 Calum Cashley
18 Clairwil
19 Cassilis
20 Andrew Burns's Really Bad Blog
21 Bid for Freedom
22 Fraser Macpherson
23 Granite City
24 North to Leith
25 Underdogs Bite Upwards
26 Anything Caron Can Do
27 Havering On
28 Malc in the Burgh
29 Sound of Gunfire
30 Caron's Musings
31 Scottish Roundup
32 Cameron Rose
33 Aitken's Edinburgh
34 Alastair's Heart Monitor
35 Katy Gordon
36 Andrew Reeves
37 Bellgrove Belle
38 Holyrood Chronicles
39 Political Dissuasion
40 Justified Spinner

UPDATE: Stephen Glenn has pointed out an error. In the original list, number 26 was Peter Cranie, who is actually a green blog based in England. The LibDem blog Anything Caron Can Do should have been listed at number 26 so I have now added it in. My apologies to Iain Dale (the other one!) who writes Anything Caron Can Do for the error.

These blogs were voted for by the readers of more than 60 UK political blogs and the readers of TOTAL POLITICS Magazine. Each person voted for their top ten blogs. Their favourite was awarded ten points, their second favourite nine points and so on down to one point. 1,142 people cast a vote.

The full results will be published in the Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9 which is published on 5 September and will be available at all the party conferences. You can now also pre-order it via the Total Politics website for £12 inc p&p. You will receive it in mid September.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who's Running Economic Policy?

Newsnight has just reported that the Government will publish a new economic strategy paper in seven days time. Isn't it strange therefore that the Treasury has been briefing that they know absolutely nothing about it. The First Lord of the Treasury is clearly taking his job title very seriously indeed. Just saying...

Farage & Medvedev: Separated at Birth?

Nigel Farage, Leader of UKIP

President Medvedev

Could they by any chance be related?

Sex Education: No Irresponsible Headline Here...

When I read on ConservativeHome this morning that two Conservative MPs had signed a letter to the Telegraph calling for sex education for five year olds I was livid. How could MPs who call themselves Conservative have done such a thing? I decided not to blog about it on the basis that I was so angry I would have written something both libellous and insulting.

Only now, eight hours later, having read the letter in the Telegraph, do I realise they did no such thing. Yet the Telegraph's and ConservativeHome's reporting of this letter has meant that thousands of their readers believe that John Bercow and Robert Key both suppport giving sex education to five year olds on the basis that they have put their names to a letter supporting appropriate sex education for relevant age primary school kids. For the avoidance of doubt, here is the full text of the letter to the Telegraph...
SIR – Although rates have fallen over the past 20 years, Britain still has by far the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe – five times the figure in the Netherlands, three times that in Germany and twice that in France. The most recent figures for teenage abortions and sexually transmitted infections are equally depressing, despite efforts to reduce them, with 42,784 abortions to teenage girls last year and 32,000 new teenage cases of chlamydia.

Yet Ofsted in England and Estyn in Wales have reported that provision of good sex and relationship education is still very patchy, with too many young girls reaching their first period without knowing what is happening to their body. International evidence suggests that high-quality sex and relationship education that puts sex in its proper context, that starts early enough to make a difference and that gives youngsters the confidence and ability to make well informed decisions helps young people delay their first sexual experience and leads to lower teenage pregnancy levels. Young people and their parents continually ask for sex and relationships to be taught in schools.

We call on the Government to guarantee
appropriate sex and relationship education in every primary and secondary school by putting personal, social and health education on a statutory basis as part of the national curriculum.

Nowhere in this letter does it talk about five year olds. This was the headline used by ConservativeHome.....

Two Tory MPs join call for "appropriate"

sex education for five year-olds

The story should never have been headlined in that way. It was irresponsible and provocative. However, they were only taking their lead from The Telegraph whose headline was

Pupils Should Have Sex Education From the Age of Four Say MPs

If you use the term "primary school" I suppose in theory you could draw the conclusion that the letter was indeed calling for sex education for all primary school age children, who would include four year olds. But that is not what the letter says, and I am confident it is not what the letter meant to imply.

In some people's minds, teaching sex education is not the solution but a symptom of the problem. Instead, much of the answer (see the ConHome post) relates to abstinence counselling. I am not qualified to judge the effect of that. But whatever the effects of it might be (I suspect they would be negligible in this country), nowhere do ConservativeHome or the Telegraph address the problem of teaching girls in particular what is happening to their bodies.

Girls start their periods much earlier nowadays, it seems - often way before they start at secondary school. It breaks my heart to think of kids with a single digit age even knowing about sex, let alone becoming sexually active. But I am afraid we are dealing with the world we are in rather than the one we might like it to be. Yes, I would love kids to retain their innocence for as long as possible. But we have to recognise that many parents - even today - shy away from explaining periods and puberty to their children (daughters in particular), partly because they are embarrassed and partly because they don't have the faintest idea how to do it. They leave it ... and leave it ... and leave it ... and then it's too late. The child has to cope on its own. Many do, some don't.

Let's face it, some eleven year old girls are having sex nowadays. Are most of them doing so because they know what they are doing, let alone what the implications are? I doubt it. Surely to God it would be better for an eleven year old to understand what she (or he) is doing and the consequences of it, rather than being kept in a state of ignorance until it is too late?

It is right, of course, to ask where one draws the lines. Kids reach sexual maturity at different ages. Some girls start puberty at the age of nine, others not till fourteen. I am not qualified to make the judgement of where the line is drawn, but I can offer an opinion. And that opinion is that I too would have been happy to sign the letter published in the Telegraph today. And I too would oppose sex education for five year olds. But that, of course, was never on the table.

Welcome Ken Livingstone

According to the Independent's Ian Burrell, Ken Livingstone likes nothing better than reading this blog or ConservativeHome. I suppose he's got plenty of time on his hands now...
One of his favourite sites is Conservative Home, or "Tory Home" as he calls it. Here Ken finds not only coverage of London politics but what he believes are the true colours of a party that David Cameron wishes to move across the spectrum, away from the violet end of blue and closer to green...But he really quite likes some of Tory blogger Iain Dale's diary, even if Dale was "a bit dishonest talking about the glorious triumph" of Boris's first 100 days in power...Dale's blog won't make easy reading for Livingstone right now, linking as it does to an interview with Boris in Dale's newly-launched magazine Total Politics.

I wonder if Ken has ever thought of starting a blog of his own. I'd certainly read it. If you're reading this, Ken, my consultancy rates are very cheap. Well, cheaper than yours!

It's a Cool, Cool Summer

Someone told me yesterday that this will be the coldest August in decades. This global warming is getting a bit serious, isn't it? :)

Seriously, I have been trying to find comparative temperatures for July and August in Britain on the net but have singularly failed. What are the facts? Have summers been getting cooler?

Top 40 Welsh Blogs

Plaid Cymru will be pleased with their showing in the Welsh Top Blogs list, with 18 of the 40 places going to nationalist blogs.

1. Peter Black AM
2. Glyn Davies
3. Ordovicius
4. Miss Wagstaff Presents
5. David Cornock
6. Miserable Old Fart
7. Cambria Politico
8. Bethan Jenkins AM
9. Betsan Powys
10. Adam Price MP
11. Cynical Dragon
12. Vaughan Roderick
13. Guerilla Welsh Fare
14. Valleys Mam
15. Welsh Ramblings
16. Dib Lemming
17. Hen Rech Flin
18. Blog Menai
19. Lone Voice
20. Amlwch to Magor
21. Welsh Blog Index
22. David Jones MP
23. Paul Flynn MP
24. 07.25 to Paddington
25. Borthlas
26. Blog Dogfael
27. John Moorcraft
28. Andrew Nutt
29. Ceredig
30. Nicolas Webb
31. Dylan Jones-Evans
32. Inside Out @ Swansea
33. Leighton Andrews AM
34. Elfyn Llwyd
35. Huw Lewis AM
36. Jill Evans MEP
37. Gwilym Euros Roberts
38. New Welsh Right
39. Independence Cymru
40. Martin Eaglestone

These blogs were voted for by the readers of more than 60 UK political blogs and the readers of TOTAL POLITICS Magazine. Each person voted for their top ten blogs. Their favourite was awarded ten points, their second favourite nine points and so on down to one point. 1,142 people cast a vote.

The full results will be published in the Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9 which is published on 5 September and will be available at all the party conferences. You can now also pre-order it via the Total Politics website for £12 inc p&p. You will receive it in mid September.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ten Reasons McCain Will Pick Romney as VP

1. He is not a Senator.
2. He is a governor and someone who has actually led something - Massachussets and the Winter Olympics
3. He knows the economics better than McCain and that’s what people are talking about.
4. He will be a good counter to Biden on the attack front.
5. He has deep ties to Michigan via his dad. No Michigan no McCain Presidency.
6. He is younger and energetic but not too young that it makes McCain look older than he is.
7. He will energise the Conservative base.
8. He is a proven money raiser.
9. He is an attack dog and can go after Obama leaving McCain to take the high road.
10. Romney knows how to use the internet.

Now, don't get me wrong. Romney is everything I hate about a politician. He's an identikit candidate, he knows which buttons to press and when to press them. Back in January I wrote:
I would never support Romney in a month of Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays. His policy platform seems to change by the minute and is too much of an identikit candidate for my liking. If the West Wing were casting for an actor to play the American President he'd be perfect. But there's something about him that just doesn't ring true.So on the Republican side I will support John McCain, albeit incredibly reluctantly. I just don't see the ideas, the optimism, the can-do attitude that I think such a candidate needs. But I'll take him over Romney.

But I still think McCain will go for Romney. My second bet is Charlie Crist, governor of Florida - although whether he has got through the vetting process is a matter for conjecture.

When the SNP Wanted a Deal With the Tories

The row in Scotland over the Alex Salmond interview with Total Politics and his views on Thatcherism is even more interesting when you consider that in 1976 the SNP made covert approaches to Margaret Thatcher over the Labour government's devolution bill. I've just been reading a page in the Margaret Thatcher Archives, which reveals all...

Devolution occupied huge quantities of parliamentary time in the late 1970s, as the Labour Government struggled to persuade its backbenchers to support legislation establishing elected assemblies in Scotland and Wales.

Many ministers were themselves less than enthusiastic about devolution, but had little room for manoeuvre because their party had manifesto commitments and its tiny parliamentary majority had disappeared entirely by March 1977, leaving it dependent on minor parties which favoured the legislation.

The Conservatives had supported the principle of devolution since 1968 when Edward Heath had surprised most of his colleagues by suddenly making the commitment in a speech at Perth. But by the time MT became leader, many in the parliamentary party were privately lukewarm, dubious or downright hostile. They feared devolution might damage or lead to the break up the United Kingdom, foresaw a backlash against the policy in England and predicted big tactical advantages in opposing the government's plans, so making life even more difficult for Labour. MT was certainly a sceptic about the Perth commitment, though she feared that a sudden reversal of policy would cause internal divisions, particularly with those still loyal to Heath and in Scotland where the whole party establishment was strongly devolutionist.

The issue came to the crunch at the end of 1976, when the government's Scotland and Wales Bill reached Second Reading in the House of Commons, the point at which the principle behind the legislation is examined. What should the Conservatives do?

One suggestion came, remarkably, from the Scottish National Party. A Conservative Whip, Jack Weatherill (later Commons Speaker) tells how he was secretly approached by the Scottish Nationalist MP, Hamish Watt, urging MT not to vote against the Second Reading , on the ground that: "If she does it will be impossible for the SNP to have any working arrangements with us". According to the note, Watt - who was a former Conservative parliamentary candidate - saw common ground between the two parties, particularly if (as many expected) the Conservatives were to become the next UK Government with the SNP a strong presence in Scotland. Whether he spoke for himself alone or for any of his colleagues was unclear. Certainly there is no evidence in her files of a Conservative response, and when (two years later) there were press reports of Conservative efforts to reach a deal with the SNP to remove Labour on a confidence motion, MT made an immediate on-the-record denial.

Top 20 Non Aligned Blogs

1. Political Betting
2. Slugger O'Toole
3. UK Polling Report
4. Our Kingdom
5. Three Thousand Versts
6. Miss Wagstaff Presents
7. Beau Bo D'Or
8. NHS Blog Doctor
9. Cambria Politico
10. Miserable Old Fart
11. Everything Ulster
12. Ideas of Civilisation
13. Olly's Onions
14. London Mayor & More
15. To Miss With Love
16. Hoby
17. Spy Blog
18. A Tangled Web
19. Craig Murray
20. Enemies of Reason

This list excludes Media blogs.

These blogs were voted for by the readers of more than 60 UK political blogs and the readers of TOTAL POLITICS Magazine. Each person voted for their top ten blogs. Their favourite was awarded ten points, their second favourite nine points and so on down to one point. 1,142 people cast a vote.

The full results will be published in the Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9 which is published on 5 September and will be available at all the party conferences. You can now also pre-order it via the Total Politics website for £12 inc p&p. You will receive it in mid September.

Substance v Style

Online Videos by

Something for Gordon Brown to take heart from? Or perhaps not.

Guest Blog: What's The Point of The Police?

By Jonathan Sheppard

Last Tuesday I went to bed a normal person. By 6:00am the following morning I had joined a growing band of people who are known as being "victims of crime". Ok so mine was no biggie, but I still feel violated and angry that someone has dared to come on my property and take something of mine. Some little toe rag had entered my car parked two feet from my front door ransacked the boot and glove compartment and swiped my SatNav.

What to do? Well we needed to get to the station to head of to work and 10 minutes later we called the police. My wife was asked her name, ethnic minority, what job she had, and what car we drove amongst other pointless things including our address and we were told someone would be in touch. How naïve of me to expect a visit that evening from all those police we hear are making our streets safer.

Two days later – yes two days later - we get a call from a PC from a police station 20 miles away to finally give us a crime number. They apologise for the delay – but say they are behind in following up on committed crimes – something I'm sure all criminals will be delighted to hear.

We asked if anyone else has had anything broken into or stolen in an attempt to try to determine if it was part of a gang hitting the estate. No we were told. We ask are we likely to hear or see a police representative and are told it's unlikely.

Now at that point I suddenly concluded the police are just a pointless organisation. Is it too much to ask for a uniformed officer to visit someone who is a victim of crime? Funny how they had plenty of time to pull my wife over earlier in the year while driving to the station at 6:00am to breathalise her and then let her go on her way as they thought she may have been speeding. That's easy to do. Visiting a victim of crime and actually trying to solve it seems to be too much trouble.

That would have been the end of it had a neighbour not popped over to tell us the local paper had a small piece about someone else on the street who apparently also had things stolen on the same night.

So we do no less than call the police and ask why when we had asked if anyone else had been victims, had we been told no. First of all we were told there was no record of any other incident. When we point out it is in the local paper we are told that it is up to the public to link crimes. Funny – I really thought a detectives job may have been to detect things. Maybe I was wrong.

So now I am angry and ask for someone to call us back. Hours later a police constable calls and I yet again have to go through the whole story and say how I am pretty disgusted that now 4 days have gone and we have seen no uniformed officer given the police station is less than a mile away. She tried to fob me off, and then calls back a few hours later and leaves a message saying they were under the impression we didn't want to see anyone. Quite frankly I am nothing short of being disgusted as to how the police treat victims of crime.

They police spend more time collating useless information for their useless monitoring forms than doing real police work.

If they are behind in their work they don't send anyone out to see you. That means as a victim you clean up whatever mess the criminal has left – which means they will NEVER send anyone out as they will say they will then have no useable evidence. For them that then closes the case.

They don't even know what crimes have been committed where and furthermore think you the ordinary citizen should be doing the detective work for them.

My respect for the police has reached an all time low, and what makes me sad is I know my story is probably happening all over the country. Recorded crime will only be dropping because people like me will no longer see any point whatsoever in informing the police when a crime is committed.

The system now has to change to ensure victims of crime see police as a matter of course. Surely this isn't too much to ask? If that doens't happen, more and more people will begin to question what the purpose of our police force actually is.

Jonathan Sheppard is editor of Tory Radio.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Roger Alton: Newspapers Not Dead Yet

I've just been MSNed by a friend who is in foreign parts. He says this blog has been namechecked by the Independent editor Roger Alton in the BBC Hardtalk programme. Being curious I just watched it online (HERE). The programme's thesis is that newspapers are finished and Alton was there to put the counterpoint. In his first answer he cites the fact that David Miliband wrote an article for the Guardian rather than place it on my blog or LabourHome as proof that newspapers are alive and well.

What a peculiar defence. If that's the best line of defence he can think of, maybe newspapers are in more trouble than I had thought.

Blog Meme: What Were You Doing When...?

It's a long time since I started a Blog Meme, and what better time to do it than a very boring bank holiday Sunday. Every few years, there's an earth shattering event which you remember for the rest of your life - and you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard about it. Here are five of mine...

Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997
I was asleep in my flat on the Isle of Dogs when the phone went. 'Princess Diana's been in a car crash. Switch on the TV," I was ordered by my partner. I did so and kept it on. I had a feeling of foreboding. I was watching when Martin Lewis broke the news and broke down himself. I picked up the phone. 'She's dead,' I said to my very sleepy partner, who struggled to take in the news. he refused to believe it.

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990
I was working in my office in 36 Grosvenor Gardens. I was in the process of setting up a lobbying company. There was no TV and no radio. Just a telephone. I was stunned and felt as if I was experiencing one of those 'what if' moments. Somehow it didn't seem real.

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
I was sat at my desk on the balcony at Politico's with a small TV on in the background. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the twin towers ablaze. I turned the sound up only to see the second plane hit the second tower. My first thought was that my best friend Daniel's Dad had an office in one of the towers. I tried to get him on the phone but all the networks were down. I feared the worst and was a mental wreck watching the rest of the coverage. He phoned a couple of hours later to say he was OK and wasn't even in New York.

England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany in - 4 July 1990
Gaza's tears. Lineker's signal to Bobby Robson to have a word with him. The two penalty misses. this game had it all. and where was I? Watching it with several hundred insurance brokers in Nottingham. I was covering their conference for my then employers Lloyds List. Three hundred insurance brokers and me in floods of tears. You had to be there.

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
I was in my pram gurgling and wetting myself.

So, as one does with Blog Meme's I am nominating the following five blogs to repeat the exercise.

Devil's Kitchen

Tom Harris
Donal Blaney
Alix Mortimer
Sadie Smith

UPDATE: Always nice to have a government minister as my bitch...

Brown Reveals His Normal Side

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph 7 Days magazine GMTV presenter Lorraine Kelly reveals something rather normal about Gordon Brown...
When Lorraine Kelly and her husband were invited to lunch at [Gordon] Brown's home in Kirkcaldy for lunch one Saturday, she was slightly disconcerted because he kept looking at his watch. 'I assumed he must be expecting an important phone call. And then he turned to my husband Steve and said, 'Do you know, if we leave now, we can watch the whole of the Raith Rovers game.'

Spoken like a true football fan. Mind you, if I had Lorraine Kelly to lunch, I think I would even miss a West Ham game...

Has Carol Thatcher Intruded on her Mother's Privacy?

I'm struggling to decide what to make of Carol Thatcher's book, serialised today in the Mail on Sunday. If my mother had dementia, would I be inclined to tell the world about it in this manner? Probably not, but then my mother is only an iconic figure within her own family, not all over the world.

The downside of making all this public is that the media will now obsess about the issue. Up till now, most newspapers and journalists have been quite respectful of Lady T's position and have been careful not to be prurient. I hope the publication of Carol's book will not change that, but I fear otherwise.

Dementia is a terrible disease. I've seen the effects it can have on partners and families. It's also a disease that people find embarrassing to confront and talk about. By being open about the fact he was suffering from it, when he wrote his famous letter to the American people, Ronald Reagan did a huge amount of good. Dementia charities were deluged with money to plough into medical research. If Carol's book has the same effect, it will have achieved a positive result.

But I can't sweep from my mind the thought that I wish she had kept her counsel. It's as if she has intruded on her mother's privacy.

Brown Reveals His State of Mind

THIS article from the Mail on Sunday is very revealing. It reveals a very tetchy Prime Minister, whose state of mind is clearly not what it might be.
The growing pressure on him appeared to show during an interview with The Mail on Sunday, in which he refused to answer questions about his hopes of survival. ‘I’m happy to talk to you because you are here,’ he snapped. ‘I have given you special time. That is very good of me. You are very fortunate. I am not going to do an all-round interview about everything that is happening in politics. People are less interested in personalities and more interested in policies.’
Mr Brown insisted that he would steer Britain through the economic downturn. Asked if he was confident he would still be in a job by Christmas, he replied: ‘Of course. I am totally focused on only one thing and that is taking this country through these difficult economic circumstances.’ But his irritation grew when it was suggested he was ‘feeling the pressure’. He observed sharply to an aide: ‘I was told this would be five minutes.’

Can you seriously imagine any other politician saying this?
I’m happy to talk to you because you are here,’ he snapped. ‘I have given you special time. That is very good of me. You are very fortunate.

Sounds more like the rantings of a demogogic dictator rather than a British Prime Minister.

The Return of Reggie Perrin: Great, Super

So the BBC plans to commission a remake of THE FALL AND RISE PF REGINAL PERRIN. Er, why? Do they seriously think it could be better than the original? It would be like someone other than Meatloaf singing BAT OUT OF HELL. I didn't get to where I am today by not knowing that ideas like this stink.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Top 20 Libertarian Blogs

1. Guido Fawkes
2. Devil's Kitchen
3. Tim Worstall
4. Samizdata
5. UK Libertarian Party
6. An Englishman's Castle
7. Last Ditch
8. Huntsman
9. Freedom & Whisky
10. Old Holborn
11. Charles Crawford
12. Nought Point Zero
13. Nation of Shopkeepers
14. Question That
15. PJC Journal
16. Looking for a Voice
17. Underdogs Bite Upwards
18. Saxon Times
19. Womble on Tour
20. Libertarian Alliance

Click HERE for a list of all 33 Libertarian blogs in the Total Politics Directory.

These blogs were voted for by the readers of more than 60 UK political blogs and the readers of TOTAL POLITICS Magazine. Each person voted for their top ten blogs. Their favourite was awarded ten points, their second favourite nine points and so on down to one point. 1,142 people cast a vote.

The full results will be published in the Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9 which is published on 5 September and will be available at all the party conferences. You can now also pre-order it via the Total Politics website for £12 inc p&p. You will receive it in mid September.

Blogging the Conventions

Thanks to Andrewha who alerts me to THIS article in the New York Times, which is headlined THE YEAR OF THE BLOGGER. It highlights the facilities the Democrats and the Republicans are providing for the two hundred or so bloggers who will be attending their respective conventions.

Sadly, I now won't be attending the Republican Convention in Minneapolis/St Paul for reasons I won't go into here (they are nothing to do with politics). I will, however, be attending all three party conferences. I wonder if our political parties will be making any effort to provide bloggers with comparable access and facilities. I'm not holding my breath.

Ken's Defeat: It's Just Not Fair!

Ken Livingstone's former media director Joy Johnson has written a ludicrous piece in the new edition of the British Journalism Review (sadly not online). It's all about the horrible Evening Standard and its role in the London mayoral election. At the beginning of the article she says "I do not believe it was the 'Standard wot won it'". She then proceeds to spend the rest of the article explaining all the damage the Standard did to Livingstone's cause. Indeed, she hilariously blames his defeat not on the paper, but on all the newspaper's billboards.

Just because Livingstone is behaving like a dog going back to its own sick, it doesn't mean all his former advisers have to join him. Get over it Joy. Move on!

No Wonder Obama Likes Joe Biden...

On Tuesday my best friend Daniel Forrester emailed from Washington urging me to predict Barack Obama would choose Joe Biden as his running mate. Nah, I thought. Far too safe a choice. I'll listen next time!

Those of us of a slightly older vintage remember Biden from the 1988 presidential race, when he was forced to pull out after the Dukakis campaign released a video showing he had plagiarised Neil Kinnock's "First Kinnock in a thousand generations" speech. He said...
Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go a university? Why is it that my wife ... is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? ... Is it because they didn't work hard? My ancestors who worked in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania and would come after 12 hours and play football for four hours? It's because they didn't have a platform on which to stand.

Kinnock had said...
Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

Perhaps these clips show why Obama thinks so much of Senator Biden...

How to Annoy Your Fellow Passengers...

Mike Rouse has an entertaining piece about his bank holiday rail journey to Wales, full of witty observations about his fellow passengers and their rather irritating activities...

Friday, August 22, 2008

SNP Select Glenrothes By Election Candidate

The SNP has tonight selected its candidate for the Glenrothes by election. He is Peter Grant, the leader of Fife Council.

Labour is having difficulty finding a candidate to fight this by-election. So far, three leading candidates have said thanks, but no thanks.

* Henry McLeish (ex-MP and MSP in Fife and First Minister).
* Christine May (ex-MSP for the area, lost her seat in 2007).
* Alex Rowley (Labour leader on Fife Council, ex-Secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland, and a Brown protege - think Douglas Alexander and add an extra "Fife" dimension).

It shows just how desperate things have become when Labour can't find a candidate for a seat with a five figure majority.

UPDATE: Just for your info, the BBC finally reported this story at 9.31, over an hour after I posted it. Is that really the best it can do? I know it's August, but even so.

Alex Salmond & Margaret Thatcher: The Truth

I hadn't quite realised what a stink my interview with Alex Salmond had caused in Scotland until I heard that the First Minister himself had called a phone in on BBC Radio Scotland to clarify his remarks. You can listen to it HERE. In the interview with me he said...
ID: Ten years ago, the Conservatives were seen as a terrible enemy by the SNP, and they saw you as very left-wing. It seems to me that you have tried to change that, and create a big tent for the SNP.
AS: I suppose I have tried to bring the SNP into the mainstream of Scotland. We have a very competitive economic agenda. Many business people have warmed towards the SNP. We need a competitive edge, a competitive advantage - get on with it, get things done, speed up decision making, reduce bureaucracy. The SNP has a strong social conscience, which is very Scottish in itself. One of the reasons Scotland didn't take to Lady Thatcher was because of that. We didn't mind the economic side so much. But we didn't like the social side at all.
ID: Doesn't that illustrate the problem, that Scotland is seen as having quite a big public sector and, as the country of Adam Smith, it is no longer seen as the country of enterprise?
AS: I think that betrays Adam Smith. He was not just a friend of economics. He was a moral philosopher. Margaret Thatcher could have only ever read the Penguin edition of Wealth of Nations and she missed out the moral sentiments. I would absolutely defend the reputation of Adam Smith against the Adam Smith Institute. I said to Eamonn Butler [Deputy Director of the ASI], if Adam Smith could sue, you'd be in real trouble.

Labour has seized on the highlighted passage and called on Alex Salmond to apologise. It is astonishing that even eighteen years after she left office Margaret Thatcher still dominates much of our political discourse. Quite how Labour has managed to spin Salmond's remarks about Thatcher in the way that it has is quite astonishing - but the Scottish media has such a Labour bias it makes English newspapers look positively balanced by comparison. Every single Scottish media outlet is biased against the SNP. A point I made in an unpublished part of the interview...
ID It must be a relief to have got through the first year with a reputation for competence.
AS It was a desirable objective. As you probably have noticed, I am not short of confidence, so relief is the wrong phrase, but I was determined that that should be done. So much so that I banned their holidays last Summer and said look, you’re Cabinet Ministers, make your mark. And they did.
ID My point is that the Scottish media is against the SNP and apart from the Labour Party most other people in politics have said quite nice things about you.
AS If you get complimented by your critics then that is better than just being complimented by your friends.

Anyone who seriously thinks that Alex Salmond has turned into an admirer of Margaret Thatcher must want their heads read. As he has been quick to point out, it was Gordon Brown who invited her to Number Ten, so it’s a bit rich for Labour to make hay with his remarks!

When one does an In Conversation interview like this, it has to be edited. The original transcript ran to 6,500 words, whereas the version which appeared in the magazine was less than half that. I have just gone back and checked against the original transcript of the conversation and was relieved to find it is an entirely accurate report of what Alex said. Here, just for the record is the unedited version...

ID I perceive that the SNP has changed a lot in the last ten years. The Conservatives were seen as a terrible enemy by you and the SNP was seen to be a very left wing party by the Conservatives. It seems to me that you have copied Bill Clinton – I’ll be careful where I go with this analogy – and tried to create a big tent for the SNP, so you can attract ex Conservative voters who had previously felt put off by some of the more left wing ideas of the SNP.
AS I suppose I have tried to bring the SNP into the mainstream of Scotland. We have a very competitive economic agenda. Many businesspeople have warmed towards the SNP. We need a competitive edge, a competitive advantage. That side of SNP politics – get on with it, get things done, speed up decision making, reduce bureaucracy. The SNP has a strong, beating social conscience, which is very Scottish in itself. One of the reasons Scotland didn’t take to Lady Thatcher was because of that. It didn’t mind the economic side so much. But we didn’t like the social side at all. One of the most famous phrases in Scottish history is the ‘Community of the realm’ – I used it earlier. This idea that there is a community of interest stretching across the population. It’s a very Scottish concept and Scotland doesn’t like people who regale against it.
ID Doesn’t that illustrate the problem that Scotland is seen as having quite a big public sector, a bit too much of the Nanny State, and as the country of Adam Smith it is no longer seen as the country of enterprise. Or am I betraying English prejudices by even daring to suggest such a thing?
AS I think you are betraying Adam Smith. He was not just a friend of economics. He was a moral philosopher. Margaret Thatcher had only ever read the Penguin edition of Wealth of Nations and she missed out the moral sentiments. I would absolutely defend the reputation of Adam Smith against the Adam Smith Institute.
ID You’re a better man than I am.
AS I said to Eamonn Butler [Deputy Director of the ASI], if Adam Smith could sue, you’d be in real trouble.

You can read the whole interview HERE.