Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Very Happy 2009!

So, it's the last blogpost of 2008 and its purpose is to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year.

I'm not going to do New Year's resolutions. I'll leave that to Tom Harris. The last time I made a New Year's resolution was in 1999 and that was to give up drinking. And I kept to it. But the disadvantage is that I now have to explain to people that, no, I am not a recovering alcoholic - I just don't like the stuff.

We've got three completely barking mad female friends about to arrive (including Rena Valeh, late of 18DS fame), so it's time to sign off until tomorrow. I hope you enjoy yourselves this evening. I normally hate New Year's Eve. My most memorable was spent in Palm Springs in 1994/5. I had had such an awful time the previous New Year's Eve that I decided to go abroad. I flew in on 30 December, went out for a walk on the evening of the 31st, then decided to have a quick snooze before the festivities got underway - and awoke at 2am the next day having missed New Year completely. Perfect.

2008: A Year in Blogposts

It's the last day of the year - time to look back on the best and worst of 2008. I'll leave you to decide what my worst blogposts of the year have been. But in case you're interested, here are what I consider to be some of the best of the 2,300 blogposts I have written this year...

Four minister face police interviews
American election: I want to be inspired

Midnight at the Lincoln Memorial
I promise to avoid genital shaking in future
Who should be on the DNA register?

The 'people like us' phenomenon
Sham consultations fuel voters discontent

John Prescott's bulimia & pressure cooker politics

Local elections: Were you still up for Portillo?
Decline & fall of the political memoir

David Davis's walk into the unknown
Our Perfect Day
David Davis & Gay Rights
Boris and his absent backbone

The Most Anti Gay MP in the House of Commons
The future of party conferences

Sex education for four year olds
The ANY QUESTIONS experience
Ossetia: What do we do?

Hello, I'm Nick Clegg. Click.

Why Conservatives should man the barricades for Osborne
Killing time on a four hour flight
Why I'm declaring for Obama

Tories must realise Brown is out to get them
Reflections on Barack Obama

Boris Saves Christmas

Not Iain Dale's Predictions For 2009


  • In a surprise move the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin steps down, but only on the condition that he is replaced by George Galloway. The House begs him to stay on
  • David David resigns his seat a second time in protest at the Metropolitan Police's outrageous refusal to arrest him
  • In a diplomatic disaster, during a State visit to Iraq President Obama announces he wishes to be known has President Hussein.

  • Conservative MP Damian Green charged with acting suspiciously while walking in a westerly direction and wasting Police time
  • LibDem Voice goes into meltdown over exciting news that Mrs Daphne Snodcastle of 32 Acacia Avenue, Twickenham has renewed her party membership
  • Dizzy gives up thinking for Lent

  • Sky News Political Editor Adam Boulton returns early from his American sojourn covering Obama’s First Hundred Days. “I missed interviewing Hazel Blears,” he explained
  • Lembit Opik resigns as Political Editor of the Daily Sport alleging the paper was becoming "too high brow"
  • Blogger Alex Hilton loses libel case. His website is renamed Labour Homeless

  • Barack Obama arrives in London for the G20 Summit and greets Gordon Brown with the words: “Listen punk, let’s get this straight. It didn’t start in America. Got it?”
  • The economic situation worsens with news that the last remaining shop in Oxford Street is closing down
  • Labour MP blogger Tom Harris finds himself in trouble with Labour whips after he misses a vital Commons vote to play Davros in a new episode of Dr Who

  • Gordon Brown summons Andrew Marr to Number Ten to announce a June 4 General Election. Twenty four hours later, following a disastrous YouGov marginal seats poll, he summons Marr back to say that he’s changed his mind
  • The LibDem European elections campaign gets off to a shaky start when their campaign battlebus turns out to be a Nissan Micra
  • West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola celebrates as his team win the Premier League after winning eighteen consecutive matches and Carlton Cole scores his thirtieth goal of the season. (I do apologise, I have been hallucinating)

  • UKIP leader Nigel Farage is ousted after his party’s disastrous 2% showing in the European elections. Speculation mounts that he will set up a new party called ‘In Vino Veritas’
  • Eric Pickles quits his crash diet after the first day citing irreconcilable differences with his dietician
  • The Guidoisation of politics is complete after Mr Fawkes is appointed to chair Andy Burnham's inquiry into the regulation of the blogosphere

  • Alistair Darling delivers his fourth emergency budget of the year following a decision of the Bank of England to cut interest rates to -10%. “This is a budget for savers,” he declares, as he orders bed manufacturers to make more mattresses
  • Budget saving measures are imposed at their LibDem HQ as the party is ordered to pay back the Michael Brown £2.4 million donation. LibDem News is reduced to a single sheet of A4, while biscuit rationing is introduced in Lord Rennard's office.
  • After David Dimbleby leaves Question Time, the BBC announces that Dermot O'Leary and Tess Daley will be the first in a series of guests hosts of the programme to make it more appealing to Yoof.

  • In mini reshuffle David Cameron promotes Nadine Dorries to the Shadow Cabinet, telling friends it was the only way to get her to stop blogging. The next day Nadine blogs "How dishy Dave popped the question and why I blushed."
  • Gordon Brown insists Britain is best placed to weather the economic storm despite news that the Pound has slipped to parity with the dollar. "The Pound in your pocket is unaffected," he says
  • "Je ne regrette rien," sings Alistair Darling from his bath as economic growth shrinks by a further 2%.

  • George Osborne is photographed chatting to Johnny Vegas aboard a pedalo in Cleethorpes
  • LibDem leader Nick Clegg takes his party conference by storm by telling his party faithful to "go back to your constituencies and prepare to lose seats."
  • Gordon Brown is introduced at the Labour Party conference by his six year old son John with the words: "My Dad's bigger than your Dad."

  • The Conservative Conference gets off to an unfortunate start when at a champagne reception David Cameron is heard telling delegates : “This is what I call sharing the proceeds of recession! Let’s party!”
  • ConservativeHome denies a shift in editorial direction following the appointment of John Bercow as head of its Editorial Board
  • The Irish vote to ratify the Lisbon Treaty after France threatens a nuclear attack.

  • On a state visit to the Ukraine, French President Nicolas Sarkozy enters key Ugandan discussions with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
  • Gordon Brown gives his Mansion House speech wearing a hair shirt
  • President Obama's poll ratings take a tumble after he threatens his children's puppy with drowning if it **** in the Oval Office just one mo' time

  • Six months ahead of his sixtieth birthday Jeremy Paxman announces he is leaving broadcasting to “find Jesus”. He added: “And when I do find him I have a number of questions I shall be asking him.”
  • The BBC announces Paxman's replacement will be Fearne Cotton but denies any hint of dumbing down its current affairs coverage
  • Good news at last for the economy when it is announced a new job has been created in Pontefract. "The upturn starts here," cheers Alistair Darling.

2008 Awards Poll: Gaffe/Moment/Statesman/Hate Figure

International Politician of the Year*

1. Morgan Tsvangirai 27%
2. Angela Merkel 19%
3. Sarah Palin 16%

*Barack Obama was given a bye!

Political Moment of the Year

1. Boris winning the mayoralty 31%
2. Barack Obama's victory speech 19%
3. Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty 16%

Political Gaffe of the Year

1. Gordon Brown "We saved the world" 25%
2. 10p Tax 16%
3. Met's arrest of Damian Green 11%

Political Hate Figure of 2008

1. Gordon Brown 38%
2. Robert Mugabe 28%
3. Michael Martin 9%

* 1380 people took part in the poll between 19 % 26 December.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why Don't Political Parties Raise More Money Online?

Several weeks ago I asked you to vote in a poll which was all about the future impact of technology on politics. Orange asked the same questions through Total Politics of every elected politician in the country. More than 2,700 of them took part. Perhaps the most interesting result from the poll was that 75 per cent said they agreed in future parties must win most of their funding through large numbers of small donations. Liberal Democrats expressed the fullest support with 82 per cent agreeing on the need for change, with the Conservatives on 76 per cent and Labour on 74 per cent. The figure for readers of this blog was 74%.

The question is, how is this going to happen. None of the political parties in this country are actively marketing online donations. The Conservatives spent a huge amount of money (I'm told £500,000) trying to persuade people to become 'Friends of the Conservative Party' rather than full members. Only a couple of hundred people signed up. Not exactly great value for money. But if a limit of £50,000 is imposed on individual donations, the shortfall is going to have to be made up from other sources - one of which must be online.

There is a school of thought which thinks it is not possible in this country to attract a myriad of small donations from individual donors. The David Davis by-election provides some counter evidence, although that was a one off rather than an ongoing campaign asking for money. People will also cite pressure groups or charities like the RSPCA who, as well as being mass membership organisations, also have a substantial online donor base. If they can do it, why can't political parties?

In addition, people point to the USA and see the huge amounts of money being raised on individual campaigns and think, 'well, if they can do it, why can't we?' Part of the reason is that there is a much more embedded culture of philanthropy, even among the less well off. But the political culture is also different. It is far more geared to a permanent campaign for an individual candidate rather than a political party. Politics is far less centralised. There is no reason why that won't change here, but it will be a long term change of culture, rather than something which will happen immediately. But if it is to happen, the parties must want it to happen and take proper advice. The Tories have so far wasted huge amounts of money on their online operations, at least in part because they have not taken that advice. But the other parties aren't any further ahead in this area.

I suspect the marketing expert who comes up with an answer to this question will become very rich.

2008 Awards Poll: Sexiest Politicians/Devolved Politicians

Sexiest Male Politician of the Year

1. Zac Goldsmith 21%
2. Eric Pickles 18%
3. David Cameron 17%

Sexiest Female Politician of the Year

1. Sarah Palin 37%
2. Caroline Flint 19%
3. Julia Goldsworthy 9%

Welsh Politician of the Year

1. Rhodri Morgan 29%
2. Adam Price 20%
3. Nick Bourne 12%

Scottish Politician of the Year

1. Alex Salmond 56%
2. Annabel Goldie 19%
3. Nicola Sturgeon 7%

Northern Irish Politician of the Year

1. Rev Ian Paisley 37%
2. Martin McGuinness 17%
3. Sir Reg Empey 16%

* 1380 people took part in the poll between 19 % 26 December.

The Perils of Selling a Used Car

We have just had a visited from Her Majesty's Constabulary. "Do you own an Audi, Sir?" asked the WPC? "Well, if you look behind you, you'll see three of them!" I jauntily replied. "Is one of them registration number GU... XXX?" "Yes, the A4 over there," I pointed out. "We're trying to sell it." "Well it's been involved in a crime and used as a getaway vehicle," said the second WPC. I must admit, my blood started to run cold at that point, as I imagined joining Stevie Gerard down the local nick. My mood brightened when I realised it was registered in my partner's name and not mine :).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, my partner had put it in Autotrader and hadn't photoshopped out the number plate. So a London criminal decided to make the plate up, put it on an identical car and use it in a robbery. Nice. Apparently this happens quite a lot.

The only reason I am telling you this is as a warning to others. If you're advertising you car for sale, don't put the registration number in the photo!

By the way, anyone interested in a top of the range high spec Audi A4?!!

8,500 miles, Latest Model. Black Leather Interior.Factory Sat/Nav. Bluetooth Phone Connection. Hill Hold. Front & Rear Parking Sensors plus rear Parking Camera. Xenon Headlights. Auto Lights & Wipers. LED Day Running Lights. Climate Control. Remote Locking. Electric Windows. 18 inch Wheels. Paintwork Protection. Audi Warranty till 2011. Low Emissions & Road Tax Band. Very Economical. £19,995.

5% (£1000) off if a reader of this blog buys it!

As the WPCs were about to leave, I asked them if they had ever had an Indian Head Massage. I quickly explained that I wasn't offering one (one of them looked more disappointed than the other one), but if they worked just over the border in East Sussex they'd get one free.

2008 Awards Poll: Blogging

Blog Personality of the Year

1. Guido Fawkes 42%
2. Mike Smithson 12%
3. Tim Montgomerie 8%

Right of Centre Blog of the Year

1. Guido Fawkes 33%
2. ConservativeHome 16%
3. Spectator Coffee House 14%

Left of Centre Blog of the Year

1. Tom Harris 20%
2. Recess Monkey 13%
3. Harry's Place 9%

LibDem Blog of the Year

1. LibDem Voice 29%
2. Norfolk Blogger 23%
3. Lynne Featherstone 22%

Political Website of the Year

1. 34%
2. PoliticsHome 19%
3. CommentIsFree 10%

* 1380 people took part in the poll between 19 % 26 December.

Shapps Reports on the 'New Homeless'

One of the Conservatives' busiest politicians over the Christmas period has been Shadow Housing spokesman, Grant Shapps. He's going to hit the headlines this morning with a report which claims that nearly half of us are concerned about meeting our mortgage repayments during 2009. YouGov Research for a pamphlet called THE NEW HOMELESS, which Shapps is publishing today reveals...

  • 44% of mortgage holders are worried about being able to meet their payments over the next 12 months.
  • Nearly half (47%) of Local Authority and Housing Association tenants are worried about being able to meet their rent payments over the next 12 months.
  • Over two fifths (41%) of private renters are worried about being able to pay the rent over the next 12 months.

The report concludes that for the first time, people from right across the socio-economic spectrum believe themselves to be at equal risk of repossession or inability to pay rent; regardless of whether in social housing, the private rented sector or owner occupiers. Shapps told me last night...

Over the past year the Conservative Homelessness Foundation has worked with our Advisory Panel which consists of all the leading housing charities and it has become clear that the prospect of homelessness is on the rise. What this report and YouGov data reveals is that the prospect of homelessness is suddenly a very real and alarming prospect for millions of hard-working Britons who have never before believed themselves to be at risk of losing the roof over their heads. Unfortunately this government's response has been a myriad of confusing, and often contradictory, small scale announcements which have done little to reassure hard-pressed families.
This is obviously a delicate political issue. The Opposition can't appear to revel in this at all. What they need to do now is show how they would differ from the Government in their response to the problem. The Shapps report is a good start.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ten New Blogs

Aberdeen University Labour Club
Sassy Lad - Conservative blog
Voice of Youth
Juankerr - Scottish left of centre anti-Labour blog
Henry North London - Libertarian blog
Blog Rhys Llwyd - Welsh language blog
Squiffy Musings - Blog of a gay, F1 mad Tory
Prognosis - Right of centre, libertarian
Scary Biscuits - Right of centre
Andrew Reeves - LibDem blog

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,700 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

Police Get Indian Head Massages On the Taxpayer

Click on the above image and you will see a tender document drawn up by Sussex Police Authority for the "provision of onsite Indian head massage services to specific departments within Sussex Police."

The taxpayer and the council tax payer are footing the bill. I have been unable to find out what the cost of this head massaging is, but in order for it to have to go out to tender I imagine it must be a significant sum.


2008 Awards Poll: Book/Peer/Magazine/Humorist/Pollster

Peer of the Year

1. Lord Mandelson 27%
2. Lord Trimble 19%
3. Lady Manningham-Buller 17%

Political Humorist of the Year

1. Ian Hislop 25%
2. Quentin Letts 17%
3. Tina Fey 11%

Pollster of the Year

1. YouGov 65%
2. ICM 17%
3. IPSOS Mori 10%

Magazine of the Year

1. Private Eye 33%
2. The Spectator 32%
3. The Economist 14%

Political Book of the Year

1. Cameron on Cameron by Dylan Jones 23%
2. Blair Years by Adam Boulton 21%
3. A Political Suicide by Norman Fowler 16%

* 1380 people took part in the poll between 19 % 26 December.

Ten Predictions for 2009

1. There won't be an election.
2. Unemployment will top 3 million by the end of the year.
3. Damian Green will not face charges.
4. Ed Balls will be Chancellor by the end of the year.
5. Ken Clarke will join the Shadow Cabinet. David Davis won't.
6. The Independent will go out of business.
7. There will be a second massive recapitalisation of the banks.
8. Lynne Featherstone will be promoted to a major job on the LibDem front bench.
9. Jonathan Ross will leave the BBC.
10. The economic growth rate will be three times worse than the Treasury has predicted.

Bishops Should Avoid Party Politics

The attack on the government by five bishops yesterday will have brought a smile to the face of many a Conservative, who remembers their attacks on the Thatcher government of the 1980s. But if we are going to be consistent, we should condemn the bishops in the very same manner that we condemned their forerunners in the 1980s. It's all very well to criticise policies which lead people, in their opinion, to be more likely to sin, but yesterday's attacks by the various bishops entered the realm of party politics. That is not what they are there to do. The bishops are intelligent enough to make the same points without resorting to direct party political gibes.

End of sermon.

Israel is Right to Defend Its People

Hamas are a bunch of murderous thugs. Over the past few years they have fired 5,000 rockets on Israel from residential parts of the Gaza strip, killing and injuring dozens of innocent Israelis. Israel has done its best not to react, but in the end their patience has snapped - and understandably so. They have acted using the only kind of force Hamas can understand.

According to Conservative Friends of Israel, over the past week more than 300 rockets, missiles and mortar rounds have been fired from Gaza by Hamas and other militants at Israeli villages and towns. More than 560 have been fired since Hamas escalated rocket firing on 4 November. This is on top of the 5,000 which have been fired from Gaza this year. The media seem to think these rockets are fairly harmless. They are not. They are weapons of terror.

BBC reports suggest that in recent days none of these rockets has resulted in any Israeli deaths or injuries. Not true. CFI report today that: "An Israeli man was killed and four others were seriously wounded when a missile hit a house in Netivot. Another man was seriously wounded when a rocket struck at the community of Mivtahim later this afternoon." Over the last four years, 92% of Sderot residents (a town of 20,000 people) have experienced a Qassam rocket falling on their or an adjacent street. Sixteen Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets and hundreds have been injured and maimed.

Israel should have dealt with this situation long before now. Instead, it allowed itself to be persuaded to call a truce with Hamas. It may have gone down well in the international community, but all it achieved was to allow Hamas time to regroup and rearm. According to CFI:
Under cover of the truce, Hamas engaged in a major campaign to upgrade its terrorist capabilities, manufacturing and smuggling massive quantities of weapons into Gaza – including rockets, explosive charges and machine guns – and constructing a network of underground tunnels for combat purposes. Israel cannot acquiesce to the presence of a Hizbullah-like organization on its southern border.

Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing more rockets into Israel. Imagine if this had happened here. Imagine if France fired rockets onto Dover from Calais. Would the British people expect its government to stand idly by and do nothing? Of course not.

British politicians are calling on both sides to act with restraint. Fine words, which are totally hollow. It is not right to treat both sides equally. Israel is a democratic ally, while Hamas are nothing more than an Iranian backed terror group, which is subjugating the people of Gaza in order to radicalise them. Once they have done that they intend to repeat the experience on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas are well aware of this and their condemnation of the Israeli action is notable for its reticence. It's easy to understand why. They know full well what Hamas is like, and what its endgame is. This report is from the Press Association...

In a news conference today from Cairo, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas placed the blame for the violence in the Gaza Strip squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. He described how he repeatedly made contact with Hamas and implored them not to break the ceasefire. He lamented that the violence in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided had Hamas not broken the ceasefire. The following is Mahmoud Abbas's statement at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit.

"I say in all honesty, we made contact with leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. We spoke with them in all honesty and directly, and after that we spoke with them indirectly, through more than one Arab and non-Arab side... We spoke with them on the telephone and we said to them: We ask of you, don't stop the ceasefire, the ceasefire must continue and not stop, in order to avoid what has happened, and if only we had avoided it."

The US ambassador to the US Zalmay Khalilzad has suggested Hamas held the key to restoring calm. "We believe the way forward from here is for rocket attacks against Israel to stop, for all violence to end," he said. CFI reports that Khalilzad was "implicitly backed up from Cairo by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who claimed the current situation could have been avoided had Hamas renewed the ceasefire before it lapsed and ceased all violence towards Israel."

If you doubt my interpretation of Hamas's motives and are deluded enough to think that they are genuine freedom fighters, just click HERE. To the horror of the Egyptians Hamas are not even allowing ambulances in to Gaza to treat the injured.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the wounded were "barred from crossing" and he blamed "those in control of Gaza" for putting the lives of the injured at risk.
And we shouldn't forget who funds Hamas - the Iranians. Without their money and weapons Hamas wouldn't be half the force it is today, either in Gaza or in the Lebanon. Hamas is classified as a terror organisation by the UN. Virtually every Middle East country won't have any dealings with Hamas, yet in this country they seem to be treated by many as a legitimate organisation with whom the Israelis should negotiate. The only country which exalts Hamas is the one to whose President Channel 4 disgracefully gave a platform on Christmas Day.

People blame Israel for the terrible state of living standards in the Gaza Strip. They are wrong. Hamas is to blame for keeping its people in abject poverty. Israel handed over the governmental administration of the Gaza Strip in 2005 to the Palestinian Authority. They had an opportunity to run it themselves. Instead, since Hamas took power, they have done everything in their power to keep their people in poverty and use it as an excuse to radicalise those who are inclined to believe their propaganda. But even despite this, Israel was providing huge amounts of humanitarian aid to Gaza - more than 4,000 truck loads a month as well as fuel and electricity (despite the ongoing rocket attacks). Conditions were by no means good, but there was no humanitarian crisis, according to Khaled Abdel Shaafi, director the United Nations Development Programme in Gaza. He said this month that "this is not a humanitarian crisis... It's an economic crisis, a political crisis, but it's not a humanitarian crisis. People aren't starving."

It is highly regrettable that more than 250 people have been killed over the last few days. If Hamas hadn't been firing their rockets from residential areas the death toll would have been much lower. But Hamas have sited them there deliberately, so they can portray any Israeli response as heartless and disproportionate.

Gordon Brown was absolutely bang on with his response to what's happening in Gaza. He said: "I call on Gazan militants to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately. These attacks are designed to cause random destruction and to undermine the prospects of peace talks led by president Abbas. I understand the Israeli government's sense of obligation to its population."

William Hague, though, was perhaps a little less unequivocal, which I think is a shame. He said: "We deeply regret the loss of civilian life in Gaza today. We call on the Israeli government to show restraint. At the same time we call on Hamas to stop the rocket attacks which are an unacceptable threat to Israel's security, so that the ceasefire, which Hamas failed to renew, can be urgently restored."

The trouble is that any Hamas backed ceasefire isn't worth the paper it is written on. If we have learned nothing from recent history, surely we have learned that. Israel will only be able to restore open borders with Gaza and cease its military action when it is clear that no further rockets are being fired. In the meantime they should have the backing of every right thinking democrat in destroying the sites from which rockets are being fired and the tunnels through which Hamas are smuggling arms from Egypt.

As you can tell, I support Israel 100% in their actions in Gaza. But I fully recognise that there is an opposing viewpoint, which others are espousing on other blogs - mostly on the left. Whenever I write about Israel or the Middle East it provokes the loonies to come out of hiding. Let's keep the debate moderate and insult free in the comments please.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Dizzy...

Quote of the Day by the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit

The Israelis have been warning you that this was coming if you continue your cross border rocket attacks. Egypt has been imploring you to stop firing rockets into Israel, but you ignored our words. We have been urging you to renew the cease-fire with Israel, but you refused. You have brought this upon yourselves. You are responsible for what is happening to the people of Gaza.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Reshuffle Question David Cameron Should Ask

The Sunday Telegraph's Patrick Hennessy has an intriguing story today, speculating that David Cameron may be considering offering Ken Clarke the position as Shadow Business Secretary. I have no idea how likely that is. Or indeed, how likely he would be to accept it. There are many reasons for reshuffling your team, and slotting particular people in particular roles. But perhaps the most important question David Cameron should be asking himself if this:

Who would Labour least like me to have in the Shadow Cabinet?

The words Clarke, Davis, David and Ken come to mind. But, as Eric Morecambe memorably said, not necessarily in that order.

Get Your ***** Out for the Tories?

An interesting way to solicit support... A further example of the Guidoisation of politics? :)

Not sure how photos get to appear at the top of a Google search, but sure enough, if you click on it, you do go to the Conservative Party website.

2008 Awards Poll: Political Communication

Communicator of the Year

1. David Cameron 31%
2. Vince Cable 22%
3. Shami Chakrabarti 14%

Campaigner of the Year

1. David Davis 30%
2. Iain Duncan Smith 27%
3. Shami Chakrabarti 14%

Speech of the Year

1. George Osborne's PBR reply 25%
2. Obama's acceptance speech 18%
3. Diane Abbott on 42 days 12%

Pressure Group of the Year

1. Taxpayers' Alliance 28%
2. NO2ID 21%
3. Liberty 18%

Think Tank of the Year

1. Adam Smith Institute 22%
2. Centre for Social Justice 17%
3. Policy Exchange 16%

*1,380 people voted between December 19 & 26th

2008 Awards Poll: Journalists, TV & Radio

Columnist/Commentator of the Year

1. Fraser Nelson 17.2%
2. Matthew Parris 17.1%
3. Jeff Randall 8.7%

Broadcast Journalist of the Year

1. Andrew Neil 21%
2. Jeremy Paxman 14%
3. Ed Stourton 11%

Print Journalist of the Year

1. Ben Brogan 25%
2. Andrew Gilligan 23%
3. Andrew Pierce 10%

Political TV Programme of the Year

1. Newsnight 22.5%
2. Question Time 22.2%
3. This Week 20%

Political Radio Programme of the Year

1. Today 29%
2. Any Questions 14%
3. Week in Westminster 8%

*1,380 people voted between December 19 & 26th

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ten New Blogs

Liberty Mine
Marbury - UK commentary on US politics
London Says - London think tank
Dunford Daily - Leftish commentary on international issues
Advanced Media Watch - SNP blog
Westworld - SNP blog
Events Dear Boy, Events - Right of centre blog
Never Call Retreat - Blog of an Oxford Conservative student
Daniel1979 - Blog of a young Tory
How did we come to this?

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,700 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

2008 Awards Poll: MPs of the Year

Over the last week 1,380 of you have voted in my mammoth 2008 awards poll. Over the next few days I will be publishing the results.

Conservative MP of 2008

1. David Davis 29%
2. Iain Duncan Smith 19%
3. Ken Clarke 16%

Labour MP of 2008

1. Frank Field 45%
2. Bob Marshall-Andrews 22%
3. Jon Cruddas 12%

LibDem MP of 2008

1. Vince Cable 64%
2. Lynne Featherstone 13%
3. Chris Huhne 10%

Minority Party MP of 2008

1. Alex Salmond 51%
2. Dr Richard Taylor 11%
3. Adam Price 8%

2008 Awards Poll: Ministers & Their Shadows

Over the last week 1,380 of you have voted in my mammoth 2008 awards poll. Over the next few days I will be publishing the results.

Politician of the Year

1. Boris Johnson 46%
2. Vince Cable 14%
3. Peter Mandelson 8%

Minister of the Year

1. Alan Johnson 18%
2. Ed Miliband 15%
3. John Hutton 13%

Worst Minister of the Year

1. Jacqui Smith 33%
2. Ed Balls 17%
3. Alistair Darling 13%

Shadow Cabinet Minister of the Year

1. William Hague 32%
2. Michael Gove 28%
3. Eric Pickles 13%

Shadow FrontBencher of the Year

1. Damian Green 50%
2. Ed Vaizey 17%
3. Justine Greening 16%

Friday, December 26, 2008

When Circulation Figures Don't Tell the Whole Story

This PRESS GAZETTE story about web traffic on newspaper websites is interesting, if only to highlight the fact that, so far as I can see, they are still counting their numbers using the "unique visitors" system, as opposed to "absolute unique visitors". This is what caused so much trouble earlier in the year between one blogger on the left and one or two other bloggers, including myself. He accused us of manipulating our readership figures to make it look as if we were getting more readers than we actually were.

I was quoting 350,000 monthly readers (unique visitors), as opposed to the absolute unique visitor figure of around 70,000. The 70,000 figures is the number of individual (or more accurately individual computers) which log onto my site during the course of one month. A better explanation can be found HERE.

According to official figures this week, The Guardian website gets 26 million unique visitors each month. To the uninitiated, that would look like 26 million individuals. But it isn't. At least I believe it isn't. If I visit the Guardian's website thirty times in a month I count as 30 of the 26 million.

So we are still not comparing like with like.

Much of the Guardian's online readership is foreign. This table of UK unique users is interesting...

UK unique users 9,548,426 (36.7%) 7,394,866 (32.2%)
Times Online: 7,231,485 (33.4%)
Sun: 6,936,051 (42.2%)
Mail Online: 6,441,804 (30.9%)
Mirror Group: 3,372,104 (57%)

This suggests that The Guardian probably has an Absolute Unique Visitor figure of around 2 million and the Mirror only around 600,000. I base that on my own sites proportions of absolutes to uniques. That may of course be entirely wrong. But if it isn't, it means that individual blogs are now getting as much as 15% of the traffic of a whole national newspaper website like the Mirror's. Not bad for a one man band like Guido or me, is it?

Did David Cameron Meet the 2008 Challenge?

In my Telegraph column at the turn of this year (read it HERE) I assessed the three challenges facing Tory leader David Cameron during 2008. They were...

1. To attract more so-called C2 support
2. To create a government in waiting
3. To get Simon Heffer to say something nice about him

So how has he done? I do think the Conservatives are attracting more support among the so-called C2s (an expression I loathe), but there is still some way to go before Essex Man and Worcester Woman totally buy into David Cameron.

On the second one, I don't see enough progress. Francis Maude and Nick Boles are doing a fine job on preparing for government, but I still don't think the Shadow Cabinet is looking like or behaving like a government in waiting. Perhaps a January reshuffle will rectify that.

On the third one, Simon Heffer has, believe it or not, made one or two positive utterances about "Dave", as he insists on calling him, during the course of 2008. Let's have a few more during 2009!

Quote of Christmas

"Gordon Brown saying he should be allowed to fix the economy is like Bomber Harris offering to fix a few windows in Dresden."

Frank Skinner on
Have I Got News For You

Ten Blog Headlines You Won't See in 2009

Devil's Kitchen

Donal Blaney

Dizzy & Norfolk Blogger

Tom Harris


Shane Greer

Ministry of Truth

Chris Paul

LibDem Voice

Fraser Nelson

Hattip for the idea for this post from Nicolas Webb

Spitting Image: A Job Has Been Created in Doncaster

Remember in the 1980s when ITN on a Friday used to detail all the job losses that week? It infuriated the Thatcher government. I wonder if they are thinking of reinstituting it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas

A very Happy Christmas to all my readers, and a big thank you to those who have stayed loyal during 2008 and to those who have discovered the blog for the first time over the past year.

I am spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day with my parents and sister and her family near Saffron Walden. No broadband, no internet ... but lots of mince pies. I know I shouldn't, but it is Christmas...

Note: No blogging on the 25th!

Revisiting Christmas Way Back When

I find that as I get older I find it far more difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. Not because I am at all Scrooge-like, before you get the wrong idea, but more because I suppose I'd quite like Christmases to be exactly how I remember them as a child. Not going to happen, is it?!

I've just got back from a Christingle service at our local village church at Ashdon, near Saffron Walden. It brought back a lot of childhood memories, even though such services didn't exist way back when. There was quite a feudal set-up, with the Vestey family, who own most of the local land always sitting right at the front. Our family also used to sit in the same seats (much further back!) and I was irrationally disappointed to find they were already taken when we arrived today.

The local church doesn't have a full time vicar any longer. Today's could have been in Dad's Army. His eyebrows were bushier than Denis Healey's and I imagined that at any minute he might shout out "Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring!"

I have rarely seen the church so packed. There were around 200 in the congregation, which in a village of around 800 is quite a lot. There were lots of 'yummy mummies' with their kids, who all took part in the service.

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I am not at all religious, but I do love all the Christmas traditions and rituals. Call me a hypocrite if you like, I don't really give a monkey's!

Sitting here with my parents, by the fire, I'm taken back to Sunday afternoons in the early 1970s when we'd play a card game called Spite 'n' Venom then watch Catweazle, the Clangers and the Golden Shot, followed later on by The Brothers. That's if there wasn't a power cut, which there often was.

Those were the days.

LibDem Candidate Caught Faking It

About ten days ago I reported on the LibDem candidate in St Albans, Sandy Walkington, who was pictured painting a red post box with a dry paint brush. I speculated that the post box was probably still in the same dilapidated state it was in the picture. Thank you to the reader who has sent me a range of photos to prove just that.



Sandy Walkington is awarded the Ben Abbotts Memorial Award for Spin & Hypocrisy. But I wish him a Happy Christmas nonetheless. :)

Protecting Damian Green From Himself

What a bleedin' liberty as Catherine Tate's grandmother character might say. It seems the Met used covert recording equipment to tape anything Damian Green said from the moment of his arrest until he arrived at Belgravia Police Station two hours later. This tactic is only ever used on terror suspects, I gather. It was, according to the Met, "done with the best of intentions". Of course it was. No doubt to protect Mr Green from himself. At least, that's the excuse the Stasi would have given.

Does a suspect have no rights in this situation? If he is to be taped, surely he has a right to be told that he is being taped? Fine, if he is a terror suspect, then the rules change, I suppose, but Damian Green was not a terror suspect. The only inference which can be drawn is the the Police were covertly inviting Damian Green to incriminate himself.

As I said, what a bleedin' liberty. They must be held to account. And at the risk of provoking accusations of "helping my Tory friends" from Assistant Commander Quick, if it was he who authorised this, then he has even more music to face.

UPDATE: Paul Waugh says that the Counter Terror Unit is about to be disbanded, with it reverting to two divisions - SO12 and Anti Terror.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vote in the 2008 Iain Dale's Diary Political Awards Poll


The polls have opened in the 2008 Iain Dale's Diary Political Awards. You have nominated people in 39 different categories, from Politician of the Year, Political Journalist of the Year, to Sexiest Politician of the Year and Blogging Personality of the Year. At the end of the poll I ask you to give some serious and not so serious predictions for 2009.

You don't need to vote in all the categories but if you do, it should take you 10-15 minutes to complete. I think you'll enjoy it.

The poll remains open until midnight on Boxing Day and I will post the results between then and the New Year.


I should make clear that this poll is a bit of end of year fun. Those who vote only represent themselves and this inevitably means there will be inbuilt biases - not least because the voting choices have all been nominated by a self selecting audience. I'm not asking other bloggers to encourage their readers to take part, so I am not pretending the results will show any sort of political balance whatsoever. It is Just. A. Bit. Of. Fun.

A Question of Priorities

The question of outside interests for the Shadow Cabinet is one I have made by views clear on in the past. When the News of the World initially ran a story on 1 November that David Cameron was to ban his top team from having outside interests in the run-up to the election I was pleased - but at the same time wondered if it was wise to brief an initiative he might not be able to deliver on. I took the view at the time that if people didn't like it, they could lump it and be replaced by those who were willing to commit all their energies to winning an election. I haven't changed that view.

The Financial Times reports that Cameron has given up on the initiative, while Ben Brogan pins the blame on William Hague, who he says had threatened to resign from the Shadow Cabinet if Cameron banned him from earning money outside politics. The FT also hints that Alan Duncan and an unnamed third Shadow Cabinet member threatened to follow suit.

There are several lessons from this. First of all, the kite flying (the FT fingers Steve Hilton) in November was wrong headed. Secondly, only announce you are preparing to fight a battle when you know you are going to win it. Thirdly, William Hague was considered to valuable to risk him walking. Fourthly, any of the others who have complained about this policy can expect to be dropped at the next reshuffle. And they can have no complaints.

Jonathan Isaby from ConHome says this...
In order to be taken as a serious government-in-waiting, politics has to come first and I was somewhat concerned recently to hear the following story about a member of the shadow cabinet: he had apparently already told David Cameron that he didn't want a higher profile post than that which he currently holds in advance of the general election, because he didn't want to give up other interests on account of time commitments or potential conflicts of interest involved in a different post. Such an attitude at this juncture is unacceptable.

And if the anecdote is true, it would indeed be unacceptable. I too have heard a similar anecdote about a Shadow Cabinet member who was offered a promotion and turned it down - not because of any thought about time commitments or conflict of interest, but because he/she genuinely wanted to finish the job they had started. I wonder if we are both referring to the same person.

Letters to the Editor: No 94

Dear Sir,

I am writing to say how much everyone agrees with the wonderful Jacqui Smith and her brilliant move to bring in ID cards.

I don't want to embarrass Jacqui because I'm sure she's very modest but she really is the best Home Secretary this country has ever had. Even better than that Mr Blunkett who was also very good but not as good as Jacqui.

The only people who disagree with our fabulous Home Secretary are the para-military wing of the unpopular and moribund Tory opposition which now consists solely of a few disgustingly rich old Bullingdon boys and a few old ladies who will probably be dead anyway after another cold winter. Fortunately the Metropolitan Police are dealing with the former under the splendid leadership of Chief Constable Quick.

Finally I would like to dispel the scurrilous gossip about Jacqui being an ex-dinner lady. She was a cookery teacher and could have become Head of Dept if she hadn't moved into politics.

Yours Sincerely

Mr R Timney

Hattip to a comment on Guido Fawkes

UPDATE: It seems a number of people don't get the joke. Richard Timney is actually Jacqui Smith's husband and has been caught out writing to newspapers saying what a brilliant Home Secretary and constituency MP she is, without declaring who he is.

Mystic Dale

I've just been writing my Eastern Daily Press column this week. I thought I had better check what I had written in previous years, just to make sure I don't repeat some hackneyed old Christmas or New Year's anecdote. Well blow me down. This is what I wrote in December 2006...

The level of personal debt in this country will become a huge political issue over the next few years. In the end, individuals have to take responsibility for their own actions. Everyone knows what their income is and what level of debt they can service and they should act accordingly.
Well call me Mystic Meg if you like... And to think Vince Cable has managed to hoodwink the whole British media into thinking he was the only one who foresaw the debt crisis...

Why Doesn't the Pope Just Join the BNP & Have Done With It?

Tis' the season of peace and goodwill to all men

(except 'gayers', natch)

The Pope considers homosexuality as "damaging to the future of the world as the destruction of the rain forests". I wonder if he thinks it is as damaging to the world as the Nazi Party was. This all comes on top of his comments from earlier this year, when he described homosexuality as "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound."

I wonder why, if he considers it such an abomination, why he doesn't root out the "deviants" (using his own language) among his own Catholic Priesthood. Because let's face it, there are plenty of them. It has been suggested that more than a quarter, and possibly up to half of Catholic priests may be gay, yet the Pope seems to consider it OK to allow them to continue administering to their flocks. Perhaps he thinks it's OK as long as they keep themselves to themselves. Except that most of them don't. He hasn't launched an inquisition because he knows the entire Catholic Church would collapse without gay clergy. It's a bit like the London Conservative Party.

The trouble is that bigots like "His Holiness" (it's almost a joke writing those two words in this context) continue to believe that homosexuality = paedophilia. If you're gay, you must a) be promiscuous and b) be attracted to anything in shorts, no matter how young. He could not be more wrong.

He also believes that homosexuality is a choice. It is not. It is in theory true that you can choose (if your resistance to temptation is stronger than most) not to practise it, but its existence within you is not a matter of choice. No wonder the concept of 'catholic guilt' is so prevalent. Without giving people reasons to feel guilty the whole edifice of the Catholic church could collapse.

The Pope is entitled to his view, and he's entitled to express it. But I am also entitled to say that I find his views repellent and disgusting. They do not befit a man of the cloth. They are views which I would normally expect to hear from the likes of Nick Griffin.

PS I do hope the LibDem bloggers who were so 'outraged' by my comment yesterday (see below) will be just as vociferous in their condemnation of the Pope's comments.

UPDATE: I'll be talking about this subject with David Prever on TalkSport from 10.15pm tonight.

UPDATE: Graeme Archer on Centre Right and Tony Grew on Pink News throw in their twopennyworths.

Monday, December 22, 2008

LibDem Sanctimonious Hypocrisy: No 94

Various LibDem blogs (HERE, HERE and HERE) have been having a right old go at me this evening, accusing me of homophobia (I ask you) for telling someone their tracksuit was "a bit gay". This from members of the Party which launched a campaign headlined ... wait for it ... HOMOPHOBIA IS GAY.

Since that has been pointed out to them, they've gone a bit quiet. Muppets.

UPDATE: Dizzy gives his characteristically caustic take on this HERE.
LibDems Yorksher Gob and On Liberty Now come to my defence.

The Daley Dozen: Monday

1. Moments of Clarity on LibDem Voice and Liberal Conspiracy.
2. Parburypolitica thinks I have a Labour MP lookey-likey.
3. Your Mandate asks what's left for blogging.
4. Lord Norton on the new Black Rod.
5. Nick Bryant on Aussie TV's series, THE HOWARD YEARS.
6. Michael White on the relationship between politicians and the Police.
7. Dizzy thinks women's football is a bit girly. The PC Police will be round his in a moment...
8. Liberal Conspiracy on Derek Draper's Blue State Digital meeting. Read the comments.
9. Chicken Turkey Yoghurt exposes new plans to give bailiffs more powers.
10. James Cleverly, a member of the MPA, on Bob Quick's position.
11. Tim Montgomerie thinks the recession is killing green politics.
12. Paul Waugh says Dominic Grieve is a wolf in pussycat's clothing.

My Book of the Year

I feel a bit bereft. You know that feeling when you finish a book that you never wished would end? I've got that now. This instant. Four years ago I bought a book I probably thought I'd never end up reading. You know, one of those books which looks quite interesting, but there's always another book which seems to take precedence over it. BLUE EYED SON by Nicky Campbell was one of those books. Until last week.

For those who don't know him, Nicky Campbell presents Five Live Breakfast and Watchdog. He made his name as a DJ on Radio 1 and presenting a game show called WHEEL OF FORTUNE. I've been interviewed by him perhaps a dozen times, but never really spoken to him outside the confines of a live radio studio. He can be quite a sharp interviewer and is always ready with a witty one liner. He's one of Radio 5 Live's star presenters. Like most media people, he has his fans but he also has his detractors. But even his detractors could not fail to be moved by his wonderful book.

The book has a simple aim. To tell the story of Nicky Campbell's adoption and how he found his biological parents and wider family. I won't spoil the story here, but he tells it with such an emotional intensity that it is sometimes difficult for the reader to cope with more than a few pages at a time. The conflict between wanting to discover where he came from and not wishing to bring any pain to his family is starkly presented.

I can't remember reading a book which has had such an emotional effect on me. Barely a page would go by without my eyes moistening, or a tear running down my cheek. Maybe it's because Nicky and I are more or less the same age. Maybe it's because family clearly means as much to him as it does to me. Maybe it's the way he describes his hopes, fears and insecurities which brings on the waterworks. I don't know. All I know is that reading this book had exactly the same impact on me as watching BAND OF BROTHERS did when I watched it on DVD a few years ago. I was unable to watch more than one episode at a time. I know it sounds pathetic, but there will be enough of you who know what I mean to warrant writing it.

I am not adopted and I suppose no one who isn't can quite understand the inner tortures which Nicky Campbell clearly went through as he went on his journey. He needed to know where he came from, and the discoveries he made along the way were not always comfortable ones. But he is searingly honest about his own weaknesses, ego and selfishness. At times his wife probably felt she deserved a medal. "You do have a family. It's us," she blurted out once.

Yes, this book is primarily about Nicky Campbell. But it is so much more than that. It's a book about the power of family as the cornerstone of our society. It's a book which celebrates family history, warts and all. And it's a book which I am so glad that I ended up reading. I'm now going to give it to my Mum for Christmas. Because she is the only person I know who cries more easily than me!

You can buy the book HERE for £6.99 in paperback.

Mr Dale's Christmas Diary: Part 94

I've noticed two things in my subconscious today - behaviour patterns which have changed without forethought, but both of which are direct results of the recession. The first one is that I now regularly read the business pages of newspapers - something I never used to do. And secondly, I am spending far less this Christmas on presents than I have done in previous years. I haven't deliberately decided to spend less. I just have. I wonder how many others are doing the same.


I just went down to Curry's to buy a 160GB iPod. No luck. Apparently they only make a 120GB one now, or so they told me. That's no good to me. I have more than 30,000 songs on my hard drive. So I went next door to PC World. Excellent. They had one on display, although no stock of them. Here's how the conversation went...

Me: I'll have the display one please.
PCW: Sorry, but we can't sell you the display one.
Me: Why not, you can't get any more. It's a discontinued line.
PCW: It's our policy.
Me: Well it's a stupid policy. I want to give you £200 you are unlikely to get from anyone else for it? Don't you want my money?
PCW: Sorry, it's our policy.
Me: Can I speak to the manager please?

I then explain the position to the manager...

Manager: OK, but I can't give you any discount and we haven't got a box for it.
Me: Thanks. I don't need a box and I didn't ask for discount.

The manager then asks a sales assistant to get it out of the cabinet for me. After ten minutes he comes back saying I can't have it because there are no cables with it. I explain that I already have cables. Five minutes later he returns and says he can't work out how to get it out of the display cabinet anyway, but if I'd like a discount of £15 on the 120GB version they'd happily offer me that. I calmly (and politely!) explain that, no, if I had wanted a 120GB iPod I'd have asked for one. He suggests I try Argos, over the road. I do, and needless to say they haven't got any either.

What's a boy got to do to spend money this Christmas?!


This morning I got a rather lovely Christmas card from Press TV, the Iranian owned broadcaster which I appear on from time to time, which has been dubbed Mullah TV. It did strike me that if an Islamic TV station owned by Iran can send a card wishing me a Happy Christmas, then all is well with the world.

How (Not) To Deal With Abusive Thirteen Year Olds

It's odd being me sometimes. This lunchtime I popped down to the BBC South East studios in Tunbridge Wells to do a quick live piece on their lunchtime news programme. They then wanted to do a recorded package for the evening news programme. The reporter took me out into Calverley Park to record it. Bad move.

As soon as he set up the camera in inquisitive 13 year old approached us and wanted to know all about the camera and what we were doing. So far so good. Then a group of 15 years olds wanted to know what I was going to be talking about. They were rather well versed in the Damian Green issue, much to my surprise and went away assuring us they'd be watching tonight.

But then two of the 13 year old's friends showed up. It then became a competition between them as to who could distract me by making burping noises. I tried a softly softly approach to try to get them to shut up. The reporter was having none of it and demanded their names, telling them their behaviour was disgraceful. Perhaps not the best way to get them to shut up, I thought.

Well, you can imagine what happened then. "F*** off, you p***k," spat one of them to the reporter. "You're a c***," said the other. The third one laughed nervously. The reporter decided we'd better do it in the studio so packed up his equipment. The three of them then accompanied us back to the studio hurling insults at the report. Only when I turned to the ringleader and told him he looked ridiculous in his white tracksuit and that "it looked a bit gay", did he shut up. And the others then directed their fire at him. "Ha ha, he said you look a bit gay." Needs must.

In the middle of all that a young guy walked past and said, "hello Iain, I read your blog." I managed to stutter a "hello" and "hope you enjoy" it while keeping an eye on my phone and very expensive Christmas present, which I thought might be the next target of the three Tunbridge Wells urchins.

I am so very glad I never became a teacher - which was my original career intention. I think that by now I would be serving a prison sentence.

So if you spot me on the BBC South East News tonight in a studio, and not in the lovely Calverley park, you'll now know why.

UPDATE 6.45pm: Well, they did show the one answer I gave in Calverley Park before the little buggers did their worst. Victory!

The Quick Apology Should Be the End Of it

Half an hour ago I got a call from BBC South East asking me to go on their lunchtime show to talk about Bob Quick's allegations against the Tory Party. "He'll have apologised by then," I told the researcher. Well, whaddayaknow.

He's just issued an unreserved apology for the remarks he made yesterday.

And that should be the end of it.

He said something he shouldn't have to a reporter on the spur of the moment and at a time of high anxiety. We've all done it. People will no doubt wonder whether a man who reacts so emotionally should be heading the Counter Terror unit, but that's a matter for Sir Paul Stephenson.

The Conservatives should accept his apology and not seek to take matters further.

UPDATE: Danny Finkelstein thinks he now understands the Quick stance.

Will Young to Appear on Question Time

Last night on Radio 5 Live's Stephen Nolan Show I took part in a 15 minute discussion on ... wait for it ... whether it is right for Will Young to appear as a guest on Question Time. Question Time had issued an embargoed press release about him appearing on a show in the New Year.

As you know, I have great doubts about celebrities appearing on political programmes - not just Question Time, but also This Week. It sometimes seems as if the producers sit in a huddle and think to themselves: "Well we got Timmy Mallett on last week. How do we go one better? Anyone for Benny from Crossroads?"

However, that doesn't mean I am against non politicians or even celebrities appearing. But only if they have something to say. We can all remember the buttock-clenchingly embarrassing performances from Alex James from Blur, The Sun's Emma Jones and Shane McGowan on This Week (among others).

Will Young is a different case though. He studied politics at university, is eloquent and I reckon he will be able to contribute to the debate as an equal, assuming he is willing to take a position and risk offending some of his fans.

I was on the radio with James Panton from the Manifesto Club, who took a much more fundamentalist view than me on this. He thinks all these programmes should be a politician free zone. We were both accused of being snobs (mainly because I mentioned Jade Goody, I suspect) by an elderly lady who phoned in!

There's nothing snobbish about wanting political programmes to be proper discussion forums. Any Questions has not gone down this celebrity route and remains an oasis of intelligent discussion. Clearly it is right for the BBC to encourage more people to watch its political programmes, but it should also remember that there are at least half a million people out there for whom politics is very important. They need to be catered for too on the mainstream channels - not just BBC Parliament.

Let the Recession Run Its Course, Says Darling

Andrew Marr's programme yesterday carried some Quotes of 2008. This one, on the coming recession, was from Alistair Darling in April...
I suppose one analogy you might use is, you know, you imagine that someone's eaten some bad food and they've got a dose of food poisoning. Some aspects of it just have to work their way through the system.

Can someone please explain how this is any different from "letting the recession run its course", which John Maples got into so much trouble for? The answer is that there is, of course, no difference. No difference at all. Except, of course, that it wasn't said by a Conservative. I look forward to the full media outcry today and calls from Labour politicians for him to apologise.

Fat chance.

Hattip: Paul Waugh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ten New Blogs

Nick Wallis - 5 Live Presenter
Pippa Crerar - Evening Standard City Hall correspondent
Bulgaria Gazette
BMA Cymru - Welsh doctors blog
Chris Davies MEP - LibDem MEP
Lazy Students - Education blog
Their Contempt for You is Total - Libertarian blog
Richard Willis - Reading Conservative councillor
David Bartlett's Dale Street Blues - Blog on Liverpool politics
Cleaning at Large - The politics of the cleaning industry. No, really.

These blogs aren't necessarily newly created, but I haven't known about them before and they had not, until now, appeared in the TP Blog Directory.

Visit the Total Politics Blog Directory which contains more than 1,750 blogs. If you know of one which isn't there, please fill in the Submit a New Blog form on the left hand side of THIS page.

The Daley Dozen : Sunday

1. Ben Brogan on why there won't be an election in 2009.
2. Michael Meacher explains how an Iraq inquiry can be secured... er, wasn't he in government at the time? Didn't notice a resignation...
3. Iain Martin on a bad day for James Purnell and a good day for Chris Grayling.
4. Dan Hannan on the Tory case for disestablishing the Church of England.
5. Charles Crawford on how to start a speech.
6. SNP Tactical Voting questions the point of George Foulkes. He is not alone.
7. Dizzy mulls over whether ideology is a good or a bad thing.
8. Paul Waugh on how Labour is creating jobs. In job centres.
9. Alex Deane has a letter from Zimbabwe which suggests Mugabe's days are numbered.
10. Tom Harris just about stops himself rushing to judgement on Bob Quick.
11. Cranmer has a right old go at A C Grayling. Good.
12. Norfolk Blogger thinks Brown should stop bailing out foreign companies.

Bob Quick Has Proved Himself Unfit to Continue the Green Investigation

THIS STORY is quite incredible. For a senior Police Officer in the Met to accuse the Conservatives of being "corrupt" over their response to the Damian Green arrest is unprecedented and wholly unwarranted. Donal Blaney points out that Regulation 6 of the Police Regulations 2003 says:

"A member of a police force shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression among members of the public that it may so interfere".

For Assistant Commissioner Quick to make these remarks at any time would be alarming. For him to make them while an inquiry is still ongoing is astonishing. Sir Paul Stephenson should take immediate disciplinary action.

His remarks comes after the Mail on Sunday printed an article about a business run by his wife. As a consequence, he says, he has had to move his family out of their home. He believes the Conservatives must be behind the appearance of the article. I suspect he thinks that because he assumes that Conservative politicians behave in the same bullying way as their Labour opponents. If he has evidence to that effect, let him bring it forward.

But it ill behoves a man who has misjudged things so badly that he has jeopardised the whole inquiry. In one fell swoop Bob Quick has proved himself unfit to continue leading the Damian Green investigation.

Is Jim Naughtie Next for the Chop?

An intriguing little snippet from Rod Liddle's article in the Sunday Times News Review on the sacking of Ed Stourton...
There was discussion, one executive let slip to me, not simply about Stourton but about the future of Naughtie, the main Today presenter, too - although what that future entailed one cannot be sure.
One doesn't have to read too far between the lines to see the hint that Liddle is dropping. Unlike many readers of this blog, I quite like Naughtie's interviewing style, although I concede that some of his questions need to be shorter. A programme like TODAY does not react well to volcanic change. Humphrys will not go on for ever and it would be a disaster for the programme to lose or drop both its main presenters within a very short time. The arrival of Evan Davis has seen a shift in power away from the top two, and this trend is likely to continue. But to drop Naughtie in the immediate future would be a mistake.

Liddle finishes off with a very telling observation on Ed Stourton's future.
As it happens, in ballsing the whole thing up, the BBC has done Stourton an enormous favour. He now has considerable leverage in his discussions with the executives, acquired through the way in which he was told of his sacking. They want him to shut up and be nice right now, what with the Daily Mail and some of the Today audience on their backs. And I suspect that he will shut up and be nice if they are nice to him.

I reckon that being nice will involve Stourton presenting the Today programme from time to time and some fairly high-profile work elsewhere within the corporation; in other words, not really sacked as you and I may understand the term.

Hell, it’s an all win situation, bruised though Stourton is feeling right now.

I think he's right. The BBC has had yet another PR disaster on its hands and won't want it to continue. Ed Stourton is in a very powerful position right now to assess what he would like to do over the next few years within the BBC and I'd be astonished if he didn't get a 'yes' from the powers that be that just want this situation to go away.

My Empathy for Alexandra Penney Is Limited

The front page of the Sunday Times News Review carries a tear jerking tale of a woman who "plunged from lady who lunched to bag lady" after she lost all her money in the Bernie Madoff scandal. She tells how her entire life savings disappeared overnight and she now can't afford anything - the implication being that she will have to live on the streets and struggle to find money for food. The reader is encouraged to be full of sympathy. Which I was. Until I read this bit...
Words keep clanging in my mind: now you have nothing. The cottage in West Palm Beach is already on the market, my little country house is being appraised, and I can’t even think what will happen to my apartment.

So, she has nothing, yet she owns three properties. My bleeding heart is starting to heal. Of course she feels sorry for herself. Who wouldn't? Who wouldn't feel cheated? Who wouldn't feel profoundly depressed, not to say humiliated? But Alexandre Penney is far from destitute. She owns properties with a joint value probably in excess of $2 million. The ones I feel sorry for are those whose entire savings were lost, mainly due to Madoff's crookedness but also partly due to the failure of the regulatory system which failed to identify his business practices as fundamentally illegal. At least Alexandra Penney can call on friends in high places...
I call my good friend Ed Victor, the literary agent, and say I need to write something, anything.

Not everyone can pick up the phone and ask a mate to organise for them to paid a fortune to write the lead story on the Sunday Times Review. The fee was probably somewhere north of £2,000. Oh well, that should keep the wolf from Ms Penney's door for a few more days.

I don't mean to sound cold hearted, but it sickens me to think that even in today's meritocratic society the media establishment does this sort of thing. It looks after its own even when the literary merit of pieces like this is questionable. A far better piece would have been 2,000 words from a media non-entity who really was on their uppers due to Madoff's crimes.

Alexandra Penney made her name, so I have googled, by writing a book called HOW TO MAKE LOVE TO A MAN. It made number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Her next four books did the same.

At least she has the chance to write another one and get a cracking great advance. Others don't have that option.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Daley Dozen: Saturday

1. Capitalists@Work identifies more Polly Toynbee inconsistencies.
2. PoliticalBetting asks why Charles will call himself when he becomes King.
3. Dan Hannan on why Belgium is better off without a government.
4. James Forsyth echoes my post yesterday on the dangers of a falling Pound.
5. John Redwood on the dangerous balance sheet of the Bank of England.
6. Richard Willis wonders why his local council's spending on its own PR has gone up by 84%.
7. Tom Harris thinks an inquiry into the Iraq war would be rather pointless.
8. Dogstarscribe has some well intentioned advice for Derek Draper et al.
9. Letters from a Tory writes to Dominic Grieve on the subject of gay marriage.
10. Dizzy exposes double standards by George Monbiot.
11. Michael Meacher asks how authoritarian New Labour is.
12. Ian Kirby on the Tory Party's falling membership.

January Issue of Total Politics Out Now

Cover feature interview with Harriet Harman
Predictions for 2009 & the faces of 2009
Sir Peter Tapsell on his 50 Years in the House of Commons
Damian Green's wife explains what it's like to be married to an MP
Interview with the Czech PM Mirek Topolanek
Poll: What do people think of Euro MPs?
Ideology in politics: Douglas Murray & Sunny Hundal debate whether it's a good thing
Tim Shipman argues that Obama won't bring as much change as people think
Shane Greer examines the role of political training in British politics
Robert Waller profiles the marginal seats in Wales
John Shosky on the seven best ways to start a speech
David Canzini explains how politicians can regain the trust of the voters
Tara Hamilton-Miller takes two MPs to clubland
Sandi Toksvig: If I were PM

You can read the free of charge E-Zine HERE or the text versions of all the articles HERE.

A 12 issue subscription to Total Politics costs £35 (27% discount) and you can buy one HERE.

You can buy a print version of the magazine at any branch of W H Smith, or selected branches of Waterstone's and Borders.