Saturday, 31 December 2011

Samoa celebrates New Year

Samoa has lost a day. Yesterday to be exact, but the good news is that they planned it and they have now already celebrated the new year. There were images of this island on television yesterday and it made me think why the Samoans would wish to change their clocks, never mind the date. The reason, of course, is that Samoa is not just made up of sandy beaches and people on holiday but there is international trade going on. It just so happens that Australia and New Zealand were always a day out. I know the world is getting smaller but it must have been inconvenient for many including those working from Monday to Friday to have to deal with their counterparts on a four-day week basis.

Compare this with Britain. Alright there is no difference of 24 hours with our nearest trading partners but our clocks are different and this will place a smaller but similar inconvenience on our international trade. There are strong arguments to change the clocks twice per year which I wrote about in one of my blogs a couple of years ago at but I don't agree with them. Wouldn't it be nice not to go round the house and change all the clocks twice per year? Many businesses have seasonal opening times despite the clock changes. Parks open in daylight hours. Samoa has made a bold move because it made sense, not to get its new year celebrations in first. Can we learn from them?

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Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

I am reading Bill Bryson's 'At Home'. I have read most of his books and really enjoyed them so I am sure that I will enjoy this one too. In this book he is looking at the history of household life and is mostly taking into consideration the last 160 years, otherwise he would have too much to write about.

The first chapter tells me about The Great Exhimbition of 1851 "the dream of a civil servant, Henry Cole" and it also tell me that Mr Cole's other claim to fame is the invention of the Christmas card. Bill reliably informs me that the reason for the invention of the Christmas card was to encourage people to use the new penny post. I always thought that cards were a commercial venture but there it is in black and white.

And that's why I don't send cards. However I was touched to see that I had two messages on my Facebook wall wishing me a happy birthday. The trouble is that I don't know what a wall is (or Facebook for that matter) so I will have to wait for a tutorial from one of my children before I answer these birthday messages. In the meantime, if you didn't get a card from me, happy Christmas.

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Thursday, 22 December 2011

And Suarez is wrong

Today's news is that Suarez is set to appeal. Is he saying that he is guilty but the punishment is too harsh (I have heard some commentators take this view) or is he saying that he is innocent? Well his agent is "convinced" that the punishment would be reversed, so that should mean he is innocent. However the agent went on to say that "it seems to us absolutely out of proportion," which suggests that he is guilty but the punishment was too harsh.

The appeal will be brought by Liverpool's lawyers who won't let him walk alone and there are many who are convinced that Suarez is not a racist. This is not the issue. The point to be considered is whether Suarez acted in a racist manner and that means that the perception of his words is all important.

Did Evra make up hearing racial abuse? I don't think so. The obvious sentence is guilty with mitigating circumstances. The complexity arises in the size of the punishment not in the conviction that the sentence should be overturned.

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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Liverpool FC is wrong

It is only a few minutes since I published my last blog but I had to write about Liverpool's Luis Suarez. He has been found guilty of repeatedly insulting the Manchester United player Patrice Evra because of his race. The word used was a Spanish variation of the word negro and Suarez denied that it was an insult in South America. That's fine if they were in South America but they were in England. More importantly, it was perceived as an insult.

The reason I am writing about this decision is not because it is remarkable but Liverpool's reaction is worthy of comment. "We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone". They went on to say in their report that "no one else on the field of play...heard the alleged conversation between the two players". Now I have just heard a report that told me Suarez did not find a certain word racist. He needs to learn that racist comments are racist and Liverpool needs to learn that this is the main point.

It is one thing to prove whether a player racially verbally abused another in a certain match. It is much more significant to think you can get away with racist comments.

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A tactic of last resort

In the news yesterday was an article about riots in Egypt. The ruling council described the pro-democracy campaigners as trying to bring down the state and said they were provoking soldiers into retaliation. This was not how the BBC reporter saw it when describing an attack on a female protestor who was fully veiled prior to the attack but she was kicked and beaten and her body exposed. The case for the protestors is also strengthened with the incontrovertible evidence of hundreds with injuries and twelve people who have died. The beating is one of the worst that I have seen in many months. Add to that the religious implications and it is easy to see that Egyptian problems are rising.

There was also footage of an Egyptian soldier firing his gun directly into the crowd. I am old enough to remember the Guardian advert in which you saw what you thought was a certain outcome and it turned out there was an alternative meaning to the images. Then we found out a third reason for what was happening. It really is hard to argue against the way the BBC reported the incident so let's take this story at face value. The forces of law and order had taken things far too far and a moving crowd was being shot at. The likely outcome was that one more protestor was going to be shot and perhaps became one of the twelve who died.

Compare that with today's news. It has been suggested that our police force could be issued with live firearms in order to deal with riots. Indeed the review from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary suggests that the police may be justified in shooting arsonists or protestors throwing missiles. Of course this would be a tactic of last resort but I wonder if that was the justification for the Egyptian soldier shooting into the crowd.

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Friday, 16 December 2011

The message from Feltham and Heston

When by-elections occur there is a general expectancy for the party (or parties) in power to lose ground to their opponents. There is a general expectancy that the main opposition party will increase its vote and this tendency is strengthened if the by-election is in a constituency already held by that opposition party. So it was no surprise to see that Labour won the Feltham and Heston by-election yesterday with an increased majority. It was no surprise to see the number of votes go down for the Conservatives and for the Liberal Democrats.

It was not a verdict, as Ed Miliband put it, "on the government's failed economic plan". This presumes that the economic plan has failed when many would not agree. In fact constraints on public spending were inevitable after the note was passed from the former labour treasury minister that there is no money left.

According to the victor Ms Malhotra, it showed many things including "the verdict of young people in Feltham and Heston looking for a job." No it didn't. The election showed how many votes went to each candidate, nothing more nothing less. There was one definite statistic and that was the turnout of 28.8%, the lowest in a by-election for 11 years.If there is any clear message from this by-election it is that we are desperate to change our electoral system.

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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

We all think independently

I like to keep political leaflets that come through my door and look back at how all political parties act on the promises that they made before an election. One party in Morecambe, the Independent Party, aka Morecambe Bay Independents and by all accounts aka lots of other things, have been in the news recently because of the number of names that they possess. One of their taglines in their leaflets asks you if you are sick of party politics with the presumption that you will vote for their party if you don't like other parties. Did you spot the flaw in this argument? Yes they are a party complete with party politics.

They are also the ones who make the headlines when it comes to making you sick. The problem for the people of Morecambe is that the Town Council is run by this party who have not published a constitution and whose one premise is to work for the town. That's sounds fine but is meaningless. Do they support saving money for the town or spending it? Do they support economic over environmental concerns? In fact what is their position on anything? And if they are independent shouldn't all their members have different views anyway? Now that would be a tagline - The Independent Party - we all think independently!

The trouble with having independent thought is that they are a united party, but some of them decided that they wanted to form a new party and they gave themselves the name Independence 4 Moreambe or I4M for short. Of course the original grouping did not like this and they "trademarked" the opposition group name. It seems this was the MBI's original name (among many others). Well I am willing to accept this argument even if nobody else has heard of it.

The trademark stopped I4M or whatever they are going to call themselves now from standing in a by-election on 22nd December. Sick of party politics?

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Friday, 9 December 2011

How do you trust Kelvin McKenzie?

Kelvin McKenzie, the former editor of the Sun is often seen on television because of his forthright views. Today is no exception because of the way he argued the case for the Sun on yesterday's The Politics Show. He suggested that the scurrilous articles seen in the Sun actually came from reporters in Merseyside. He has apologised today and his defence was that Hillsborough was 21 years ago.

The trouble with this defence is that he has had 21 years to get things right. Firstly he shows no remorse for his decision to run stories that were scurrilous. Secondly he didn't get his facts right yesterday. Thirdly, and for me most importantly, this man can argue so vehemently and be so wrong.

"The Truth" was Kelvin's Hillsborough headline. He may say some things that are true. The trouble is that even if he labels them as true they may still be 'misremembered', and when he puts forward a compelling argument I will never know if he is just making it up.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Britain's European League

I have just been watching the leading item on the BBC’s ten o' clock news which is about David Cameron and how he would fight for the nation's interest on Thursday and Friday when the EU summit will be looking at changing the way the EU works. The challenge from Tory MPs was "do the nation proud...and show some bulldog spirit", and "seize the moment" (to see off the threat of further EU integration). The main issue should not be about the British role in Europe but how to resolve the problems in the Eurozone, as Nick Robinson put it, "we have to boost confidence in the Euro, in the Global economy and we have to do it now".

Confidence in the Euro did not seem to concern Tory MPs. On the other hand Ed Miliband was mostly concerned with David’s specific goals. The news item gave the impression that Ed was an EU supporter and he wanted those goals to put Britain at the centre of Europe as Ed did not want Britain to be left on the sidelines. I wonder why I was left with the impression that Ed just wanted David to be specific in order to give ammunition to the Tory euro sceptics.

Who can blame Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy if they wish to tighten up the rules within the Eurozone? How can David Cameron disagree? However if he does agree then he has to meet the wrath of a large section of his own party. The French and the Germans are going to the summit in the desperate search for agreement. The British are going to the summit concerned with their position in a league table. The trouble is they haven’t decided whether they want to be at the top of the Champions League or in the Blue Square Conference. If we are marginalised then I would not be surprised.

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Thursday, 1 December 2011

What is the fuss about Jeremy Clarkson?

I had to switch the computer on and write this blog because of the first question on Question Time. The question was "do the panel feel that Jeremy Clarkson should be prosecuted for his comments about strikers and if found guilty should he be taken outside and shot?" This joke was met by widespread approval, with applause and laughter.

The first to answer was Deborah Meaden who added to the humour by saying that we should forget about the prosecution bit and just take him outside and shoot him. She didn't like what he said, it was an awful thing to say and it wasn't funny. Yet she has just been laughing at exactly the same joke when it was directed at Clarkson, and she made a similar joke. She either thinks this joke is funny or she doesn't and for me her body language was stronger than the words that came out of her mouth.

The second to answer was Mary Bousted, a trade union leader who didn't want to be "po-faced about this" and then she was po-faced about this because she had been to a country where people had been shot for being members of a trade union. She obviously finds Jeremy's comments plausible rather than humorous and because of this his comments were unacceptable. As for me, I can't believe that people in this county can fail to see that Jeremy was trying to be funny - even people who have visited Colombia. She asked if you replaced the word strikers for another group of people then would you still see it as funny. Well the questioner did replace the word strikers with Clarkson and it was funny.

Even Ken Clarke felt it was a really bad taste joke but admitted that the question was funny and had been laughing when the question was put. He failed to see that it was the same joke but he was right when he said the indignation was mock.

The real point (which happened to be the second question) is about disagreeing or agreeing with the strikers. We should not shoot them, that was just a joke, but many agree with Jeremy and feel that the strikers were wrong. This really was a non-question. We should not be thinking about prosecuting Jeremy Clarkson and we shouldn't be thinking about shooting him - unless of course it is a joke.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Do you have a better answer?

Ed Milliband was in the House of Commons today discussing the impact of the strike action by public workers. He was not going to demonise the dinner lady, the cleaner or the nurse as these are people who earn in a week what the chancellor pays for his annual skiing holiday. He got loud cheers from the Labour benches but I did not understand what this meant. So I took a look at where the chancellor had gone on his skiing holiday.

I had thought that skiing holidays were expensive and according to Ed nurses must be on a good wage if one week's pay could take them on holiday, but I did not think that this was what Ed wanted to say. However if you take Ed at his word then I never expected nurses to be earning so much as it was easy to find headlines telling me that George Osborne had paid £11000 for a skiing holiday. So is Ed telling us that the strikers are earning a lot of money or did he simply make a mistake?

Let's take it that he made a simple mistake, after all we are all human, but if he did make a mistake then why did he get all the cheers from the Labour benches. Possible answers are that all Labour MPs are sycophants. I don't think this is right. Could it be that all Labour MPs think that nurses earn £11000 per week. I don't think this is right either. The probable answer is that they all made a simultaneous mistake (my tongue is firmly in my cheek). Do you have a better answer?

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Change the manager

About a year ago Ian Holloway threatened to resign as the Blackpool manager if he was fined for fielding a weakened team for a cup match. It is possible that some managers would do this because fighting for promotion or avoiding relegation may be their priority over a good cup run. As it happens Blackpool were fined £25000 and Ian offered his resignation which was not accepted. There was a valid defence for Ian in that the players he selected were good players (he told us they were good) who played well and only just lost to a late goal.

You would hope that any team whether professional or amateur are actually trying to win. What's the point of playing sport otherwise? So it is only right that a sporting organisation should come down heavily against people who don't try to win. £25000 may be the right figure for Blackpool but if you take Ian at his word then they should not have been fined at all.

Compare that with yesterday's report that the Blackburn manager, Steve Kean had forfeited the game against Cardiff. If this were true then Blackburn's fine should be substantially higher than Blackpool's. Thankfully he was taken out of context and he clarified that “there is absolutely no way that we would ever consciously forfeit a game, quite the opposite".

I love the explanation that he gives. “What I was trying to say was that by not winning we had forfeited an opportunity to take another step towards a Wembley final". It is quite clear that he doesn't understand the word forfeit, surrendered as a punishment. I really don't think he means what he is saying even with the clarification. I think he is trying to say that Blackburn got knocked out of the cup.

Let's give Steve the benefit of the doubt. He doesn't know what forfeit means and what he actually said to the press was the opposite of what he meant to say. Yesterday his injured players could have played but this was the wrong thing to say and today we learn that they couldn't play. We should not fine Blackburn Rovers for fielding a weakened team but what do you do to a manager who can't communicate?

Change the manager.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Another cockling disaster?

In 2004 we had one of the worst tragedies of recent times on our doorstep in Morecambe when the Chinese cocklers died. What has happened since then? Well we have had the beds closed to all cockling, then re-opened then closed again. Morecambe Bay was closed to cockling in 2009 and has not re-opened. Unfortunately the closures are not caused by the need for safety but because of depletion of stocks. so no fishing is allowed.

Cockling still went on near Lytham up to a couple of weeks ago when the beds there were closed. Again the closure was not for safety grounds but was caused by depleted stocks. This isn't to say that the issue of safety has gone away. Another tragedy is waiting to happen. How can this be? We don't allow fishing to go on without the correct equipment and without a permit, however it was in the news a few years ago that it was easier to get a permit to go cockling than it was to fish on the canal.

I am sure that there a lot of people with a lot of answers but we need an answer now to prevent another tragedy. For what it's worth, I believe we should change the idea of 'fishing' for cockles to thinking about farming them. Let farmers have land which is theirs to police. We would not have the problem of anyone drowning including gangmasters or Chinese or Russians or anyone else who does not know the water.

At least we won't have another disaster while the beds are shut, but they will re-open when the stocks are replenished.

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Friday, 25 November 2011

Morecambe Bay Bridge

Yesterday I was looking across Morecambe Bay from Heysham towards Barrow and thinking about the debate over whether we should have a bridge. It is around 55 miles to get from Heysham to Barrow by road and if you take the direct route it is around 15 miles. If you drive across a bridge you could save at least 40 minutes by driving at national speed limits. If you know the area then savings could easily be an hour on each trip. It is easy to see the benefits to the transport system.

There are also benefits to the local economies. Businesses locate where it is efficient to locate and I am sure that if I had a business that relied on the transport system then I would be based near a motorway, not in the Morecambe peninsula. Another benefit, if you believe that renewable energy is the way forward, is that this bridge would be the place to build wind turbines.

There are usually many different views on any subject and the Morecambe Bay bridge is no exception. What would be the environmental impact? I have walked across the Bay and the wildlife that I saw was on the coast living next to man's environment. There may be an adverse effect but I am also aware that wildlife adapts. In fact there may be environmental benefits because of renewable energy. Less serious objections are that better transport systems aid criminals, and isolation is good (it is good if you do not wish to participate with the rest of society).

I remember from my physics A level that a system is only as good as its weakest link and that brings me to the main objection to building a bridge. There is a problem of getting from Heysham to the M6. If we can't have a bypass around Lancaster then a Morecambe Bay bridge would be a gateway to a bottleneck.

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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Changing the traffic lights

If you know the Morecambe and Lancaster area then you will know that we have significant traffic problems especially on the route between Morecambe and Lancaster. Rush hours are bad and it doesn't get much better between rush hours. However there are times in the late evening and at night when you can drive at the speed limit.

I was driving home this evening and had to pass some traffic lights which have been recently built because of a new supermarket. I had to brake quite strongly and then had plenty of time to see that no cars came out of the car park. There must be so many changes of lights when no cars go in or out of the supermarket car park as it isn't open 24 hours but the traffic lights don't know that.

I have noticed traffic lights changing when there is next to no traffic on the road on many occasions and thought about the way the French turn their lights to flashing amber. In this way drivers take responsibility for themselves. What it would mean is that drivers wouldn't have to break sharply or stop at all when there is no reason at all to do so.

It may even be the case that turning off traffic lights will improve the traffic during the day. In Portishead they found that doing this reduced travelling times by over 50%. Flashing amber trials have been carried out in Portsmouth and considered in other towns and cities, but change is not without its critics. What do you do if two cars come to a junction at the same time. Well the answer is easy if you have ever seen traffic lights out of action. The two car drivers work it out between themselves and the traffic moves so much better.

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Remembering the glory of war

This blog will be contentious especially as it is written on Remembrance Sunday. What does the poppy signify? Well it is a memorial of war made famous by the poem In Flanders' Fields. The response to this poem was another poem called "We shall keep the faith". Ypres, and battles in general, are places for heroes where valour is shown and where the dead are honoured.

Unfortunately history is littered with dishonourable acts of war, some of them caused by disobeying orders, some by obeying them, and some accepted by authorities until they were discovered - and that just accounts for the stories of war that we know about.

It seems to me that an act of heroism may, in other circumstances, be seen as an act of recklessness. If you go over the top and get killed it may be that a posthumous medal is awarded but it may also be the result of a bad decision or a miscommunication. Lord Tennyson knew that the Charge of The Light Brigade was a foolish error but he highlights the valour of those soldiers. I would highlight the foolishness.

You may remember the heroics shown in the film Zulu. The characters played by Michael Caine and Stanley Baker both won VCs along with nine others, the highest number awarded in one battle. However do you remember the heroics of the Zulus or are they just the unsophisticated enemy that need to be killed? The film does show the bravery of the Zulus and it could be argued that they were much braver than the British forces, but I don't think that the Zulus are the first soldiers that are thought of today.

In the Boer War, those brave soldiers fighting guerrilla warfare were Boers. If the British didn't invent concentration camps in the same war then they certainly enhanced their popularity. More recently, if it were not for the widespread availablity of cameras then we may never have learnt about the torture going on in Abu Ghraib.

A few years ago I was speaking with some French people who had no idea about the meaning of the poppy. Would you know the French flower of remembrance? The answer is the bleuet or, as we know it, the cornflower. The blue flower was also the colour of their uniforms. When it comes to remembering all of the war dead then the forces from that particular country come first, and if that is the case then remembrance highlights division.

War is not honourable. According to Tony Benn it is a failure of diplomacy. I have absolutely no problem in supporting soldiers who work in extremely dangerous circumstances. My problem is that we forget the political failures and glorify war.

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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Look for good in people

"Politicians are only in it for themselves". I have heard that comment myself even though I am untainted by victory. The naive / cynical spectrum applied to Jerry Sadowitz's humour is equally applicable to how we see politicians. All politicians may just be in it for themselves or they may all be true philanthropists. How can you be a complete philanthropist without being a saint? After all, we all have to look after our own bills. We can't give all our money away. That tells you that I am not at the extreme end of the naive spectrum.

On the other hand you may criticise politicians for looking towards their own concerns. Their decisions don't relate to right and wrong but how to line their pockets and win more votes. You would then spend time finding contradiction in what they say and do (how do you know when a politician is lying? When their lips move). Even if there is a good result you would still feel the politician is acting in a way that would be approved by Alan B'stard from The New Statesman.

There is a blogger, not a million miles from where I live who reminds me of Jerry Sadowitz at his worst. There is no humour so there is no defence that he is an entertainer. He is a cynical politician. The trouble with this is that his life in not enriched by cynicism. Taking a perceived negative viewpoint and magnifying it makes total cynicism a little more inevitable. Then you end up saying that you have seen it all and can't do anything about it, and then you stop trying.

If you gave me the choice of being totally cynical or totally naive I know which I would choose and my life would possibly be so much the better for it. As with most circumstances it is probably better to have a balanced view and if you can see good in people they maybe they will see good in you.

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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Jerry Sadowitz II

No there aren't two of him but I wanted to write more about Jerry Sadowitz and the naive / cynical spectrum of his humour. Jerry has been in trouble for making a joke about Canadians. He doesn't like them because half speak French and the other half let them. Well I think that's quite funny even though he has managed to insult the whole of Canada.The point is that he can't hate them that much because he allowed a young Canadian comedian called Bobby Mair to support him on Sunday. So you can take anything Jerry says with a few pinches of salt even though there are times when he is on an aggressive rant. Maybe he is a pussycat underneath all of his many layers.

In general I would favour the naive humour which is not so obviously attempting to hurt others. There was one vitriolic attack on a celebrity now deceased. I spent some time looking up the cause of this attack and my conclusion is that if you are on the naive end of the spectrum you would say that there is no reason for any attack and if you are cynical then there is no smoke without fire. The humour came from Jerry's ability to question society's naivety. He is saying things that others dare not speak.

Maybe it was a deliberate contrast but Bobby Mair's humour was totally different to Jerry's. I prefer the theatre to the cinema because I can be part of the performance. As a member of the audience I have some ability to influence that performance even if it just by clapping. We want a better performance so it was sad to hear one heckle when Bobby told us, as part of a joke, that he didn't want to die. Someone shouted "you just have". Was Jerry in the audience? Well the heckle wasn't funny so I don't think it was him.

You can be funny and tell a joke that hurts nobody. You can tell a joke about a whole nation but not mean to hurt anyone and still be funny. You can inadvertently hurt people with comedy but if the intention is to hurt rather than entertain then it isn't funny. Motivation is the key factor and Jerry is first and foremost an entertainer. I will continue to enjoy his humour but I do need quite a lot of salt.

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Jerry Sadowitz

I saw Jerry Sadowitz in Lancaster yesterday. I don't mind if jokes are not politically correct as jokes are generally offensive to someone. My rule of thumb is don't tell offensive jokes to the person you are offending as they don't tend to get the joke. The audience was mostly male, white and in their fifties and this audience was spared from being the butt of any joke, unless they happened to come from Manchester or Doncaster or Grimsby or Ireland. Even if they did then all they had to do was keep quiet and nobody would know. Women were slightly less fortunate but his jokes could be seen as tongue-in-cheek.

It is also essential for good comedians to make jokes about themselves, and Jerry is certainly able to do this. He calls himself all sorts of things but in the end we were not entirely sure if he meant any of it. He tells us that his esteem was so low that he would rather be a second-rate Bernard Manning than a first-rate Jerry Sadowitz.

Jerry is not a "mock the week" comedian. If Liam Fox is in the news then it doesn't really matter to him as another politician is doing something similar this week. So Jerry directs his humour at other celebrities but is more at the "cutting edge" with his observations. As I see it, whatever these celebrities are alleged to have done, there will be more celebrities doing something similar this week. Jerry's objection to topical humour is not about it being topical but about the subject.

There is some merit in telling us that our sense of humour has been numbed by the media, by other comedians and by political correctness and we should all be prepared to be offended for the sake of making the world a happier place, but I am left wondering if Jerry has been too long at the cutting edge and this has now affected his self-esteem and his popularity. There were times when his rant sounded like an alternative comedian with Tourette's and Jerry spent some time telling us that most comedians are really bad. There are times when offensive language is part of the joke but there were many times last night when the language was just part of a rant.

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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gaddafi Photo

Why have we seen photos of the body of Colonel Gaddafi? Surely there was no reason for them to be released? Graphic photos of someone who has been shot should not be floating around the internet or shown on television news. This could be an incitement to additional violence by those who support Gaddafi or be used by them as propaganda.

It may even be the case that given the graphic nature of the photos they could pose a national security risk. All we needed was the transitional authorities in Libya to tell us that Gaddafi was dead. They are the good guys whoever they are.

Did you see what I did there? I used the same arguments that were used to stop us seeing Osama bin Laden's body. But do those arguments actually have any validity? Could the photos really be an incitement to additional violence, or might they instead bring a sort of closure to the episode? Or there is a third possibility, in this age of Photoshop, might they resolve nothing because of nagging doubts that they are real? What do you think? Did you agree with seeing the body, or would you have preferred a censoring of the photos?

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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

When sorry isn't sorry

If someone said to you that it had been found that I had stolen some money and for this I am sorry, would you think I was sorry for stealing or sorry that I have been found out? I think that the best answer is that I was sorry that I had been found out, otherwise I could have gone for the simpler statement "I am sorry for stealing some money".

Dr Fox went to the House of Commons and said "the ministerial code has been found to be breached and for this I am sorry". I could have been wrong and Dr Fox was actually sorry for his actions but no I was right as he continued by saying "I accept that it is not only substance but perception that matters and that is why I chose to resign". As far as I can see he really isn't sorry for his actions and we can't feel too sorry for him as he hasn't lost his livelihood. He is still an MP. It's Mr Werrity I feel sorry for. How can he make a living now if he is not advising on anything and everything?

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Monday, 17 October 2011

Warm words from David Cameron

When Margaret Thatcher privatised electricity companies it was supposed to make the companies competitive. There would be improvements in efficiency and it was a win-win situation. I had my reservations then and I definitely have them now that David Cameron is telling us to shop around. Prices are going up because of world energy prices but David tells us that we have to find ways of keeping prices down. I wished that I understood the tariffs and which company was best for me but I can't say that I do.

The argument for energy costs is a bit like the argument for good education. We don't want choice, we just want good local education, or in the case of energy, we just want a cheap supply. We don't want children transported from one part of town to another while other children are being transported in the opposite direction. As for electricity, it all comes from the same place, it is just a matter of which company we have to pay.

If the companies are spending their money on advertising and getting a profit, and we are spending our time changing suppliers then it must be an inefficient system. Not only is it inefficient but I have to wonder if I am failing to get the best price. Am I getting a fair deal? I don't know as I am also told that there is a lack of transparency from these companies.

It is one thing to have a prime minister tell us to get the best deals from the privatised companies. It is another to get a prime minister to give us the most efficient system to get the best price. I can't help thinking that that system was pre-Margaret Thatcher.

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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Seeing Red

I can't help feeling that Wales should be in next week's final of the rugby world cup. I have previously written blogs to say that rugby is far superior to football for many reasons, one of which is the respect that is shown to referees and I will still show respect to this rugby referee even if he made a mistake but I have to say that this referee got it wrong and the wrong team is going to the final. Alain Rolland did have options but he took the one that ruined the game.

A spear tackle is when a player's feet are raised above his head and he is taken to the ground. Sam Warburton did spear tackle Vincent Clerc but he let go as soon as he knew what was happening. There was no malicious intent. I know intent does not matter and laws are laws but interpretation of the punishment should include intent as there should be no place in the game for evil players. Interpretation of the punishment should include the severity of the injury and referees do look at the injured player before giving out a card. That seems reasonable but in this case I didn't even see the card being issued as the cameras missed it, but Sam was on the bench immediately and then we saw the referee look at the injured player.

It could have just been a penalty. It could have been a yellow card. However the most severe punishment was given when things could have been so much worse. There could have been intent, M Clerc could have landed on his head and he could have been driven into the ground. He could have been seriously injured. You don't have to watch much contact sport to see how players act maliciously but this was not one of those times.

Will this red card reduce malice? Of course not because none was there in the first place.

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

A Conscientious Objection

I can understand that there is a social aspect to religion. We should be looking for a peaceful world and care for those who need support. It is even better if the support means that individuals can look after themselves. So a great example would be for the state to provide employment rather than unemployment benefits and it is not difficult to understand if an archbishop should make a public statement along these lines. However there is a problem if those jobs relate to weapons of destruction.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has called for the government to buy more Harrier jump jets following a visit to BAe at Samlesbury where more than 500 jobs are set to go. Now I don't know what your ideas of a peaceful world includes. It may be that fighter planes bearing missiles and bombs may be part of your idea of gaining world peace but at the very least the idea is contentious.

It would have been so much easier for the Archbishop to pick on other causes that could create employment or even to take the opposite view and say that we should not be involved on creating weapons of destruction. It makes you wonder where conscientious objectors get their ideas.

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Friday, 7 October 2011

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Beware the dreaded keyboards

Can you picture the scene? It is a big budget musical and everyone is happy and a character in the mould of Tommy Steele is shaking everyone's hand. Now think of Howard Hughes who had an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He would use tissues to pick things up so that he wouldn't catch germs. Howard's actions don't sound too sensible but if you follow the adverts and want to kill 99% of household germs then maybe these germs are things to avoid (even if tissues aren't the best method of containing them). Maybe that star of the musical should avoid shaking those hands on stage.

Today's news was that research has shown that if you share a desk then you should use "clean wipes" because poor hygiene is making us ill. The advice is to clean the keyboard "every now and again" to make sure that the previous user hasn't left their nasty bacteria on it. The study didn't even look at viruses even though I thought a virus could only live inside a living cell. If things are really this bad then "every now and again" should mean "every time another person uses the keyboard - even if they only use it for a second".

Maybe Howard was right after all, but I know that I would prefer to be in the musical rather than helping Howard buy his tissues. Which are the best "clean wipes"? The ones that kill bacteria or viruses or the ones that kill the 1% left by the other wipes? We didn't even have wipes like this a few years ago and now they must be a really big business. My guess is that worry about hygiene is a bigger cause of sickness than bacteria passed on by poor hygiene on keyboards.

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Wasted NHS Money

I have just heard two NHS related articles on the BBC news. The first was about the PFI initiatives to build hospitals. By 2049 more than £70 billion will have been spent on the construction and maintenance of buildings worth around £11 billion. The second article was about the probable scrapping of the national NHS computerised records system. By coincidence this project also cost £11 billion but there is now little confidence that the project could be delivered and trusts will use their own computer systems.

The PFI initiatives were set up to allow the private sector to help deliver public services. It sounds good but what it actually means is that public services have to pay for private support, and the private sector is not a benevolent society. Today's news is that up to sixty hospitals are on the brink of financial collapse because of these initiatives. It didn't surprise me that the private sector wanted significant reward. What did surprise me was how easily a Labour government continued with support for the private sector. It should be so simple. Government collects revenue. Trusts spend money. However it was decided that the NHS does not have the ability to follow this simple route and now we are paying the price.

As for the national computer system, I have heard that there could be a benefit if I walk into a hospital at the other end of the country and my records are available. I have never bought into this notion for many reasons. If I end up in hospital then there is a really good chance it will be my local hospital. If I do have to go to another hospital then the chances are that I will be able to speak with a doctor and tell then what is wrong with me. There are many more reasons why I was not keen on spending billions on a national computer system but I think you get the idea - decisions are being made recklessly which mean that our money is wasted and somebody should be accountable.

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

I was misled

It's only a few blog entries away, but on the 12th August I wrote that the words from the Police Complaints Commission that they "may have misled journalists" struck me as a cause for concern. the subject was the death of Mark Duggan.

Today on the news I hear that Mark's family has no trust in the IPCC's investigation but at least the IPCC admit that they misled journalists (not that they may have misled). Now the blame lies with the Police Complaints Commission and not with the journalists so it is no wonder the family can't trust this organisation.

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Why dislike the X Factor?

I always thought that I was indifferent to the X Factor - well not completely indifferent. I like to see contestants sing badly and then listen to the comments of the judges. As for those who audition well, they have to follow a formula. Firstly they have to be able to sing and hit the notes, secondly, they have to sing in a popular style. Maybe their voice could be influenced by blues or jazz or a number of other influences but essentially they have to produce formulaic pop music.

What changed my opinion from indifference was watching the highlights of the Cropredy music festival. This festival is organised by Fairport Convention, a group I have seen on a handful of occasions and they have always been brilliant. Most importantly they have produced a following which is just as friendly as they are. However this group would not last a minute on the X Factor. They would be stopped because it takes minutes or hours to get into this type of music. Some would say years. I also went to see a folk group on Friday that had influences from many different directions. North America, France, Portugal and this country were all involved in creating their music and there were probably many other sources.

If you like to hear criticisms of people who fail, if you like all your music to sound the same, then the X Factor could be for you.

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Sunday, 4 September 2011

How to get sent off

I have been watching the Wigan versus Warrington match this afternoon. The match is almost finished but Gareth Hock for Wigan has decided that there is still plenty to play for. So much so that Gareth thought it was worthwhile putting his fingers in the eyes of Ben Harrison the Warrington prop. Then Gareth followed it up with a push/punch with his left arm and an attempted upper cut with his right. For this misdemeanor he is placed on report.

I don't know if all of this was seen by the referee, but I had two thoughts on this incident. Wouldn't it be nice to think that a player's eyesight was more important than whether a boot went onto a white line in the process of scoring a try. So bring in the technology to allow the referee to know exactly what has gone on. Secondly, if the referee did know what went on, and what I saw was correct (I only saw the replay three times) then the punishment should relate to the incident. What do you have to do to end up in the sin bin? What do you have to do to get sent off?

The good news is that the initial comment was that incident was shocking, and after the match we were told that there is no place for this type of action in the game of rugby league. So maybe my interpretation was correct.

Change the world

Friday, 2 September 2011

More Marmite required

In 1983 I was 22 years old. I had been politically active since I was a teenager but one event of that year inspired me to more political activity and it inspires me still. You may remember the news programme called Nationwide and one particular interview with Margaret Thatcher. If you don't remember Nationwide you will remember Mrs Thatcher, the Marmite of politics as you either loved her or hated her.

This was one of a series of interviews which allowed members of the public ask their questions to famous people. They were in another studio and their faces were on a screen in the background. Mrs Thatcher was asked about the Belgrano and how it could have been "a danger to our shipping" when it was outside the exclusion zone and heading in the opposite direction. You know, the thing you do if you don't want to be shot at. All Margaret did was to repeat her "danger to our shipping" phrase but had no substance to back this up. We were too stupid as members of the public to understand where the danger was coming from.

I suppose the Belgrano could have turned round and become aggressive and so could have been a danger, but I don't know of any Hollywood film that lets the good guys act like this. There is room for agreement with Maggie as long as you want to be one of the bad guys and if you are the bad guys then it isn't worth winning the war.

At the time of the interview I remember raising my arms in exasperation at the television. Maybe we need more Marmite to get more people concerned about politics.

Change the world

Monday, 29 August 2011

Do not disturb

I have just been listening to Stephen Nolan's "fierce and feisty topical phone-in debate" on Radio 5 Live. The topic was how some nurses were wearing red tabards bearing the words "Drug round in progress. Please do not disturb", and the debate was fierce and feisty. On the one hand we had commentators telling us about the importance of getting the medications right. Consequences of error could be highly significant. On the other hand, and Stephen himself was in this camp, patients were being told not to speak with nurses and this may be really significant in their care.

There are those who deny the benefits of medical intervention, including the use of drugs, but let's put those arguments to one side and say that getting the right medicine is really important. Nurses have to concentrate and should be allowed to do so. On the other hand the interruptions may be seen as a waste of the nurses time. Whether it really is a waste of time could be debated fiercely. It may be that chit-chat should be avoided but one person's banter is another person's absolute need for reassurance.

I am biased. I know of the importance of not disturbing a nurse giving out medications. However I was visiting a friend in hospital when she wanted to go to the toilet. She said she needed to go fairly urgently and the only nurse on the ward was giving out medication. The nurse asked me to find another nurse. I searched the whole ward and had to go back to her. She told me where the staff room was and I eventually found another nurse who was on a break.

The answer is really simple. If we don't want medication errors then we make sure that staffing levels are appropriate.

Change the world

Friday, 26 August 2011

Who Pays for CRB Checks?

Isn't the internet wonderful! All I have to do to look at my previous blogs on any subject is to put in a few words into a search engine. I have written before about CRB checks and how the Soham murders were involved in the move towards greater checks, and how, ironically, they would not have prevented these murders. I have now reminded myself of what I have already written. For the record you can see blog entries on 13th October and the 16th December 2009 and 8th February 2011.

However I haven't commented on who should pay for these checks. Should it be the employer, the employee or the state? Well all of society will benefit if less crime is committed so let's go for the state. On the other hand why should I have to subsidise companies who have to ensure their workforce is compliant with the law? Let those companies pay. However I have been reading that east Lancashire NHS workers (I used to be one of them) have to pay for their own checks. What's wrong with that? Isn't it just like professional fees that have to be paid by the individual?

Well no. It is simply a cost-cutting measure by the NHS trust

If you have read my previous blogs you will know that I am not a great fan of these moves which try to protect the most vulnerable in society. If you are a criminal but don't get caught then the check is irrelevant. If you are a criminal but have slipped through the net then you will be identified and will face the consequences. If you have never been caught for anything then what have you to fear? The answer may be the CRB fee. You have to pay with the money you get from your employer after you have paid tax on it.

If you had to devise a complicated system to raise more revenue for the state then this could be the answer.

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Friday, 12 August 2011

I may have been misled

It is easy to forget last week's trigger for the riots in London and elsewhere. Businesses have been closed some have been destroyed by fire. It is not just business that has been affected and one of the lasting memories will be the personal attack on the Malaysian victim. Even worse, people have died. Most of the violence has been criminal, or at least mindless rather than a calculated response to injustice. The trigger is almost a sideline but remains significant, especially to the family and friends of Mark Duggan, the man who was shot dead by the police.

The Police watchdog, The Independent Police Complaints Commission has admitted that it may have misled journalists into believing that Mark Duggan may have fired on the police. We were told initially that there was an exchange of shots but both were fired by the police.

What struck me was the phrase "may have misled journalists". What does this mean? This is spin at its best (I would say worst). Which journalists were not misled? Can you talk of misleading information and then expect some listeners not to believe it? The only journalists who would not have been misled are those who are cynical of any press release by the police.

"May have been misled" strikes me as signifying that I should not believe anything this commission tells me.

Change the world

Thursday, 11 August 2011

After the riots

I was interested at one comment from Nick Robinson in The Daily Politics show today. He did not intend to show cynicism but purely as an observation he told us that the people involved in the riots and the people I was talking about yesterday do not tend to vote. If this causes them to be ignored, and it does, then their agenda will never be the same as the politicians' agenda.

Labour has moved to the centre. New Labour is a shadow of Old Labour. As for the Tories, I don't think Lord Ashcroft's money was used to support possible rioters who tend to live in Labour strongholds.

Before the election we were told about "broken Britain" but we hadn't seen London burning. David Cameron admits that parts of Britain are not only broken but sick but I am sure that he will tell ust that responsibility remains with the previous government. Yesterday I concluded that it was time to call for peace but in the immediate aftermath of the riots it is also time to punish looters and rioters. There are already calls to limit cuts on the police, to stop closures of prisons and to reverse softer sentencing plans. However, maybe in the near future the politicians could look at our political system as part of the malaise in society. One small change to AV didn't go too well so I won't hold my breath.

Change the world

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A time for peace

If our youth are "seen as scum then they act like scum". This was one forthright explanation for the recent riots by a Salford mother. This was certainly one of the explanations for the misbehaviour of football fans in the 1970s and there may be something in it. This may not be a popular view and it is much more likely that you hear about criminals on the street. However the lady on the news was overheard by a gentleman who felt that just because the local youth have nothing, "it doesn't give them the right to smash things up". I am sure that there is a lot of support for this view but not from the lady who was being interviewed. He also felt that "young kids who are unemployed and have nothing to do so let's go and smash some shops up". The lady was angry and felt that it was this man's "ignorance that makes kids do what they do".

Another lady was even more angry at those who had blamed parents. She claimed there were 10,000 people in that area on the previous night and they were not kids. She was interrupted by a supporter of riots shouting "let's have a riot" It seems that he can't get a job because foreigners are coming in to do the jobs that he could do. I wonder if there are any other explanations. The reporter responded by saying that nobody would invest in areas where riots take place to which he replied "that's up to them isn't it".

There may have been a genuine cause for concern that started the riots. If there was then it has long been forgotten. It is obvious that we have people rioting because they are criminals. Less obvious is the motive of those who are rioting for other political reasons. This is not the time to question motives. This is not the time to interpret the role of parents or investigate whether portions of our society view themselves as "scum". It is certainly not the time to wonder if our collective ignorance (not that of one man in Salford) causes the riots. It is time to condemn the riots and to call for peace.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

An eccentric outburst

An orthopaedic consultant at Guy's made the headlines yesterday by shouting at Nick Clegg, David Cameron and their entourage. Nick Robinson suggested that he was shouting at the group in the background and I have read that he was objecting to members of this group wearing ties or not rolling their sleeves up but I didn't hear those words. Maybe a gesticulation can contain all this meaning, it's just that I didn't see it.

Much more important to me is what I do the next time I visit someone in hospital. Am I to take my tie off? Do I take off my jacket and roll up my sleeves? By coincidence I visited someone in hospital today. I asked the nurse if I had to take my tie or my jacket off. She hadn't seen this news item but I had told her about this news item before I made this request. She had never asked anyone to remove their jacket or tie to visit any patient.

Did the consultant use his influence correctly? If ties or clothes on forearms can cause bacteria to spread in hospitals then there is a strong case to roll up our sleeves physically and metaphorically. However, on the basis that there is no concerted effort to change our sartorial habits I would suggest that this consultant is simply making an eccentric outburst.

Change the world

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A fantasy tale

I went to a constituency meeting of the Liberal Democrats yesterday and I managed to put fox hunting on the agenda. As you would expect, there was a balanced reasoned discussion. Some members of the committee were strongly against hunting but most were neither strongly for or against it. However, if we had a motion to vote on I do not feel anyone would support the hunt and the anti-hunt lobby would carry the day. I have only been a member of this committee for eight years so I also asked the older members if anyone had vociferously supported fox hunting in the past. The answer was no.

Now our constituency is called Morecambe and Lunesdale and covers places like Carnforth. So if you lived in this town you would have to say that local Liberal Democrats are probably anti-hunting. If you said that Liberal Democrats are "pro hunting in my current semi rural constituency where there is a popular local hunt" then what am I to conclude?

Let's be nice and say this person has spoken to a Liberal Democrat who was pro-hunting. The nicest I can possibly be is to say that the quote is unwise. If I were not so nice I could say this person had set out purely to insult Liberal Democrats (because of the sentences that followed). A malicious gossip may be one step up on the niceness scale. More likely I could use stronger words. I could call this sentence as an example of a terminological inexactitude, but I am far too nice to use a (what's the word I am looking for?). Let's settle for fantasy.

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Monday, 16 May 2011

Notes on a "loony"

I said I would write one more blog but I have had second thoughts. I was saving the last blog for Tuesday but I'll write one now and whenever I want to. The reason for this blog is that a friend has been in touch to say that she has seen Gregg Beaman's blog and posted a comment. She didn't say what she had written but she did tell me that he had presumed it was from me or my brother and had reacted like a "loony".

My one and only dealings with Gregg were on his blog entry from the 7th May. I have looked since then but I can't say I am bothered about looking now. My life has returned to its usual niceness. There are times when you deal with insults with polite requests and all you get are more insults and laughter. The time has come to shake the dust from my sandals and move on.

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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Time for a change

I'm just going out for the day but I have glanced at Gregg Beaman's latest post. His first sentence is wrong, which is par for the course. Martin Gradwell, my brother does not live in Morecambe. I do. I only live a couple of RC parishes away from Gregg who has chosen to lie, insult, withdraw the metaphorical hand of friendship by banning me, and not answer any specific question.

This is my 788th political blog of almost entirely enjoyable writing. Maybe it is time to concentrate on my other blogs but I will write one more when I get chance.

Change the world

P.S I didn't get chance to post this blog this morning so here it is.

The Exposé continues

I had the misfortune to look at Gregg Beaman's blog a few days ago. He is not a nice person. In fact he hates niceness with a vengeance. I tried to moderate his insults of the Liberal Democrats with my comments but I'm sorry to say it hasn't worked. I am particularly sorry because we share the same faith and I find this the hardest thing to deal with.

I mentioned and quoted the comment my brother sent to him in my last post. Gregg didn’t publish that comment, but he did continue to insult my brother and me on his blog and in a string of emails to my brother. There are also a couple more comments that I sent to him which were not published but which were referred to by Gregg on his blog - not in a nice way. That’s how he works, without allowing anyone to contradict his ramblings, he quotes just enough out of context to ridicule his critics and now he has set up a poll, asking readers if he should publish my brother’s emails. That’s right, he won’t publish actual comments that are intended for publication but he will, at the discretion of his readership, publish private emails, or at least he says he will.

I gave the URL for the offensive blog in my last post although the only reason to look at it is to see how Gregg is so forthright with his insults and lies. Perhaps it's better not to look at it so I’ll give you a flavour of the post along with my censored comments.

He begins by saying “I really did enjoy seeing the Liberal Democrats get a bloody nose yesterday” and goes on with more in the same vein. There’s a name for that, Schadenfreude, meaning taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. It’s not a particularly nice thing, but that’s OK. Maybe the Liberal Democrats did deserve a drubbing, and if you think so then it’s OK to say so.

However, he then tells us how bad it is to be nice. “What I've always detested about the Lib Dems is the way they portray themselves as the 'nice party'”, he says. OK, maybe he’s saying that they aren’t really nice, so it’s wrong for them to portray themselves as such. But he doesn't say that. He continues “we were always told off for using the word 'nice' at school, it is bland and meaningless”. It soon becomes apparent that he really is against niceness in all its forms.

He then goes on to give a couple of anti Lib-Dem anecdotes which are certainly made up, if I wasn't so nice perhaps I should have used the word lies. For instance he says Lib Dems are “pro hunting in my current semi rural constituency where there is a popular local hunt”. I am a member of the constituency party. Gregg has made up his own opinion about us.

Similarly he has a bogus story about dodgy practices by a Focus Team, which he claims to have seen with his own eyes. I have never heard about such stories and I have been active in three different constituencies but who knows, Liberal Democrats aren't perfect but there is no way of checking as it is just Gregg's anecdote.

He finishes by describing the Lib Dems as a juvenile, irresponsible unprincipled, gang.

And then there’s the comments.

I said “I too am a practising Roman Catholic and I will now have to wonder whether the person next to me at Mass is shaking my hand out of friendship or is really a hypocritic who hates me for my political views.”

Actually that needs some correction and clarification. I tend to think the best of those around me, not the worst, so I’m not really likely to worry too much about the views of those around me at Mass. And yet … if there can be one person like Gregg who is both Catholic and apparently filled with and motivated by hate, could there not be others? That is what I find disturbing. By having a “Catholic” yet hate-filled blog, Gregg creates entirely the wrong impression about our common religion.

Gregg took exception because I used the word “hate” while he had “detested”, not “hated”. He seemed to be under the impression that “detest” was a milder word than “hate”. So I commented that “If you are not happy with the word hatred then I will settle for detest”. He didn’t publish that comment but he did remark on it, saying “He's been on again Peter, downgarding from 'hatred' to 'detestation'. They do flip flop these Lib Dems.” As if detestation was something less than hatred. He was now in full “mock but don’t allow a voice” mode.

When I wrote “I'm sorry to have troubled you Gregg but it is hard for me to read your comments and associate them with a practising Roman Catholic. I don't expect publication as you have already banned me, but I would like you to give greater consideration to your blog entries.” Gregg didn’t publish that but he did respond in the blog with “He's turned to patronising now Peter. Another unpleasant trait of your typical Lib Dem. Asking me to take greater care when blogging. I suggest he just doesn't read it if he can't take criticism. They really are cry babies and mardy boys.”

And it went downhill from there. Gratuitous insults from Gregg, refusal to engage in actual discussion, and a pretence that it was others who were bringing the level of the discussion down and not Gregg.

But that really is enough.

Change the world

Friday, 13 May 2011

Exposing a "Libertarian Catholic"

I've recently mentioned a Libertarian who is quite liberal with his insults. I haven’t mentioned that his blog is called a brief encounter and his name is Gregg Beaman , but I now think I need to publish both sides of the story, unlike this Libertarian who has his expurgated version.

I told one of my brothers about the abuse I was receiving and on his own initiative he chose to write a response. You can see the comments that the Libertarian chose to publish at but don't look for my brother's reply there because you won't find it. Here it is...

So, 'nice' is bland and meaningless. Does that mean that in order to transcend blandness and meaninglessness we have to be nasty? It would seem so. Very well, I will try to oblige. But first:

Were the people who were anti-hunting in your old constituency the same people who were pro-hunting in your current one? Do they stalk you from constituency to constituency? I doubt it, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. So who, precisely, has tried to be "all things to all men"? (That was a trick question, by the way. The right answer is "Saint Paul").

More importantly, who are these Lib Dems who you yourself have personally seen checking out the council work schedule and then claiming credit for work that was going to be done anyway? My brother may be far too nice to name names, but you should have no problem whatsoever. Inquiring minds want to know. Inquiring minds NEED to know. You see, that's a pretty nasty accusation you make there (congratulations!). I'd hate to think that it was just an "urban legend", something that you got from a friend of a cousin of somebody who knows someone who works at Tory central office. Especially when you gave us such a convincing assurance that you saw it happen yourself.

So, you say you don't hate political opponents, and anyone who suggests otherwise is being snide. You do however think that the Lib Dems (what, all of them?) are "a juvenile, irresponsible and unprincipled gang". Oh, and you think they're lying because their opinion of the effects of AV differs from yours, or maybe because some of them have the temerity to think that they might be "winning here" when you know for a fact that they're losing everywhere. And most of all you detest their "niceness".

Here's the bad news: Most people are nice. Really nice. And some of these nice people gravitate into politics. Why? Because they think it's too important to be left to the vicious scumbags. So they battle on, for decade after decade, despite the lack of reward, despite the insults and the innuendo. And these are real people, mind, not ciphers. When you belittle their "niceness" and make scurrilous accusations, it is real people that you are talking about, even if there never was a real person who committed the specific action you mention in your accusatory anecdote.

Martin Gradwell

Of course this was not published. When my brother sent Gregg an email asking whether it would ever be published, amazingly, the Libertarian fired off a reply to my brother worded as follows.

Please grow up and stop behaving like a five year old. You are now starting to sound seriously obsessed and I have no intention of corresponding any further with somebody like you, who brings a nasty personal element into a general political blog post.

The fact that you go and bring your brother into your attempt at causing a fight says it all about your juvenile outlook. What next, you'll go and get your dad to sort out my dad?

Get a life.

I wouldn't normally publish emails, but this appears to be about me even though it was sent to my brother. I would say that by writing such an accusatory email about me and then sending it to someone who is not me, Greg has already effectively published it.

I have no idea why Gregg would reply to the only comment that my brother has sent to his blog with the words "You are now starting to sound seriously obsessed and I have no intention of corresponding any further with somebody like you". Maybe he thought that I was Martin, but I can assure him that we are different people. In any case, it is fortunate that things have a way of turning up on the web, no matter how much people like Mr. Beaman try to stop them. It is unfortunate that this results in the exposure of a "Libertarian Catholic" who is easily confused between names like Michael and Martin, who seems to be blocking all dissenting opinion, whose stock response to any difficult question is insult and lies, and who can't see the irony in his accusation that Lib Dems "don't take criticism very well poor delicate flowers" when he can't take any at all.

Change the world

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Muscular Liberal Democrats

It is hard to see how David Cameron can be right in saying that Liberal Democrats do not moderate government policy, otherwise what is the purpose of coalition government? Nick Clegg said that the Liberal Democrats are "clearly influencing" government policy. He asked "do you think the reforms we are going to introduce in banking would have happened without Lib Dems in government?"and went on to ask a few more rhetorical questions. I think they were rhetorical and not answered because of his responsibilties as a member of the cabinet but rhetorical or not they were still questions and we weren't hearing about distinct differences between Liberal Democrats and Tories.

At a local level I think we should get muscular too and let the electorate know who they were voting for. In my local ward we had a candidate from one party who didn't want to stand and didn't want to win but just missed out. He looked like the most worried man at the count. Another young man from another party did well but told me he lived away - he couldn't have won too. There were at least two paper candidates that I never saw so I never spoke with them. However I have it on good authority that they did not wish to win. The good news is that I think that those who won actually wanted to win.

What this means is that our electoral system really is on its knees. In some places it is obvious and there were no elections. In some places it is disguised because of paper candidates and candidates who put out leaflets but didn't want to win.

Change the world

Why ruin a blog for the sake of the facts

I have been giving a lot of thought to yesterday's Libertarian ban. I also let one of my brothers know about my comments and the fairly aggressive replies from a fellow Roman Catholic. The main difference between me and the Libertarian, apart from the aggression, is that I don't wear my religion on my sleeve alongside my politics.

My brother sent a fairly extensive reply to the string of comments. I won't share it all with you as it is around twice the length of my usual blogs, but I will repeat one paragraph which was a reference to Liberal Democrats' supposed chameleon-like policies.

Were the people who were anti-hunting in your old constituency the same people who were pro-hunting in your current one? Do they stalk you from constituency to constituency? I doubt it, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. So who, precisely, has tried to be "all things to all men"? (That was a trick question, by the way. The right answer is "Saint Paul").

So Liberal Democrats had been criticised by a religious blogger who did not understand the religious sentiment of his criticism. As for the hunting comment, he lives in Carnforth which is my constituency and as we don't have a Carnforth branch he must be referring to constituency opinion. How dare he make up our constituency opinion! It is no surprise to read that if there is a vote on the repeal of the hunting ban then it would go to a free vote. The Libertarian has no evidence for saying we, in Morecambe and Lunesdale are pro-hunting because there is none, but why ruin a good blog for the sake of the facts.

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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Libertarian Ban

I hope the irony did not pass the author by but I made four or five comments on a Libertarian blog yesterday and managed to get banned! There were insults directed towards the Liberal Democrats but I wasn't too bothered about this as I know we are not flavour of the month. My main concern was that the insults were gratuitous and, more importantly, coming from someone who shares my faith. I found this hard to reconcile and asked him to show more consideration in his writing.

It was quite amusing to see an anonymous comment asking me to name names when my aim was to protect the author of the blog. There was a lot of anger in his blog and one sentence tells us he detests the image of the Liberal Democrats as the nice party. He didn't understand that detest may be interpreted as hatred and hatred really is a destructive, non-Christian characteristic. At least he inspired me to write a new French for Novices blog which is very nice and may be found at

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Monday, 9 May 2011

Thanks to the MBIs

Among all the lowlights of the last few days there were a couple of highlights. One was a great speech from the former (Liberal Democrat) leader of Lancaster Council. He reminded the Tories how he stepped in because they could not get parties to work together. The Tories gave up on Lancaster and the Chief Executive was given next to no notice. The Tory boo boys (one was female) were vociferously put down by the MBIs - thanks must go to them for that.

Another thank you goes to the MBIs as one of their councillors told me that she read this blog. My Google Analytics does not give me enough detail to know where the visitors come from but I do know I get an average of 30 or 40 visitors per day. Strange that this councillor knew about my stats. I thought the only publicly viewable statistic on my blog was the total number of views of my profile page. At least she told me she knew so now I can check my security. It's a good job I'm not shy.

I then asked another MBI member if he had read my blog and he said no but he keeps getting emails sent to him with the question "what are we going to do about this?" And his reply is "nothing". I suppose they may act when they find soemthing they can contest. From my point of view, I have nothing against most of the MBIs. It's just their leaflet writer they need to change.

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

Enough is enough

The Liberal Democrat vote fell apart and it did so because the electorate see us as collaborators not moderators. They don't mind the Tories making cuts as that's what they do but it just doesn't fit well with the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg knows this and has written "I think it is clear that we need to do more to show people in the party and beyond what we are doing in Government and, perhaps more importantly, why. Because we are achieving a great deal. The BBC estimates that we are implementing 75% of the policies of in our manifesto, compared to just 60% of the Conservative manifesto".

The trouble is that the electorate don't appreciate it. I thought that ministers had responsibility to toe the government line. So the arguments we heard in Cabinet this week just sound like Liberal Democrats are losing their discipline, but if ministers can't say what we are doing then who is telling the voters that we are moderators? Nick isn't telling us what we want to hear, he is telling us that the BBC are telling us what we want to hear. He may as well have given us the link.

If it is the rank and file who must instruct the electorate then that rank and file became a lot smaller this week. In my ward we put out a monthly leaflet which became weekly in the last three weeks before the election. On election eve I was knocking on a door with a mini-survey and I was given the advice to put out the leaflets before the postal vote. Well there was a pre-postal vote leaflet but our message obviously didn't get home.

We can't rely on rank and file, even if they work really hard. We can't rely on ministers as they are collaborators whether they like it or not. There are two options. Continue on the same path and lose more and more councillors, or say enough is enough.

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Saturday, 7 May 2011

More on the Man of Mystery

The bin Laden situation is still in flux but it looks like a lot of the things we were first told are untrue. The senators who said they had seen multiple photos of the dead bin Laden now admit that they only saw one of the faked photos.

There was never any live video being watched by the President. There was a staged photo session in which the President and Secretary of State and others sat around laptops with blank screens, (plus hundreds of other sites and newspaper front pages) is directly contradicted by

So, wouldn't it have been nice to learn what bin Laden had to say about who actually was behind 9/11? Wouldn't that have been a good reason to avoid shooting to kill an unarmed suspect?

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Friday, 6 May 2011

Man of Mystery No More

Last Sunday the Gospel reading at church was from St John. It was about St Thomas who did not believe that Jesus had come back to life. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Jesus did supply the evidence but Thomas was stuck with the title "doubting" and now a doubting Thomas is a term used for anyone who does not believe without seeing the evidence.

And then we had the death of Osama bin Laden. The only evidence that I have ever seen of him supposedly claiming responsibility was a video, supposedly found in a house in Jalalabad in late 2001, where the man said to be bin Laden had a very broad nose and to me looked more like Cassius Clay - see Most "videos" that came out after that were actually voice-overs attached to a still image of a young bin Laden. The FBI wanted him, not for attacks on the WTC, but for attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI, apparently said, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Ladens Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.”Since then we haven't seen so much of him and I was particularly interested in what he looked like after almost ten years. There is no picture. Well there was but it was a fake. How did a fake photo get on the internet so quickly?

That stalwart of international justice, Libya was the first country to issue an arrest warrant. On the other hand we had George Bush telling the world that Osama was wanted dead or alive. Was it not vital that he was captured alive as he was the leader of al-Qaeda and may have had some important information for us?

I have been waiting for the doubting Thomases to come forward. There must be so many more reasons why he should have been taken alive - trial perhaps? There must be so many reasons why we should have evidence shown to the world. Why shouldn't we see photos? On the other hand what we got was the President telling us he was dead so he was dead.

I have searched quite a bit on the internet. I have heard nothing on mainstream media about the authenticity of the death. There are a few of Osama's neighbours who could not believe he was living near them, however one Morecambe blogger Robyn Durdy did question the death on Tuesday. By the time you read this there may be more questions being asked but I am surprised that the mystery man when alive has suddenly become so definite when dead.

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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Not a political conversation

I have been saying hello and getting into some non-political conversations outside polling stations this morning. I seem to remember that political discussion was not allowed in this vicinity because it may influence voters. However this doesn't stop individuals saying what they want to say and I have had a dozen people (there haven't been many going out to vote) wishing me good luck.

On the other hand, it didn't stop one person venting his frustration at his pension being affected by national government and he told me he wasn't voting for the Liberal Democrats. Generally I have been on my own or with other Liberal Democrats but at this moment there was a candidate for one of the Independent parties stood next to me. I said that I was sorry but I wasn't allowed to talk politics outside the polling station but the Independenst said "why not?" I told him jokingly that we might end up fighting (although the man with the pension was fairly aggressive).

I could have mentioned the government's financial restraints, which most people seem to understand. I could have told him that there was no money left after Labour left office. I could have mentioned that Liberal Democrats were restraining the worst excesses of a free market Tory government, but no I just said I was only there to say hello. It's a pity the Independent (who probably got his vote) didn't understand that.

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Knocking on doors

I was going to write about the death of Osama today, well it was a few days ago. However I will delay that blog entry for one more day because we are holding local elections today and I am a candidate. We have been delivering leaflets and knocking on doors conducting a survey. This survey did form part of the content for our leaflets but more importantly, it gave local people the opportunity to speak with their candidates. After breaking the ice many people felt they could speak with us. It wasn't all great news. This is really the first election that I remember getting abuse. Don't worry, I can take it and I'll share one encounter with you.

Two days ago I was delivering leaflets and one man came out folded it and passed it back to me. He wanted nothing to do with my leaflet. I apologised for the inconvenience and was about to go on my way when he told me that the Liberal Democrats should not have gone into coalition with the Tories. I told him we had no option. It wasn't a particularly pleasant conversation but I could end on agreement that we both wanted to say yes to AV.

I wrote a letter to him because we had reached an impasse and I wanted to explain my point of view. I received a reply yesterday evening and it turns out that he is a Labour Party member but it was a really nice reply. So it is really worth discussing politics even with opposition party members. It is also worth comparing this blog with my "priceless" entry on Sunday.

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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Say no to the no campaign

It is quite obvious that the BNP are against AV - as common sense suggests they ought to be. AV is not proportional representation. AV ensures that nobody gets elected without having the support of 50% or more of the voters in a constituency, something the BNP are extremely unlikely ever to have, so it would effectively consign them to political oblivion.

This of course doesn't stop the 'no' campaign from pretending that the BNP would benefit from AV and that they support it. is a typical evidence-free post on that theme. "I have scoured the BNP website to find any mention of the Alternative Vote", the author asserts. He didn't find it, so obviously it doesn't exist. The article also makes much of the fact that the BNP would prefer proportional representation to FPTP, which is neither here nor there given that the referendum is about AV.

Yesterday at 4.07p.m. I posted the following reply:

"I took a look at the BNP website. It was fairly easy to see they were voting no."

Last time I checked, my reply was still awaiting moderation. I wonder why?

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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

No confusion, no difference

I was confused about the difference between the two independent parties in Morecambe but with this week's leaflets I have found one difference in their claims. Independence 4 Morecambe say, and I quote, "WE GAVE YOU 2 YEARS OF FESTIVALS THE MBI PARTY TRIED TO STOP THEM". Meanwhile Morecambe Bay Independents say "Morecambe Town Council Achievements - £2500 for the kite festival, £39,500 for festivals in 2010".

So there you have it - there is no difference after all. Meanwhile the people who actually put effort into organising and staging the festivals as opposed to merely funding them don't deserve any credit, it seems.

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It's Not April The First

I happen to like the idea of independence. I think that we should all aspire to free-thinking but we have an Independent Party in Morecambe in which all its members think in the same way on every issue. It doesn't matter what the issue is. It could be the price of any commodity. Then take the choice between that and a better quality alternative but it costs more. As with almost every aspect of the social sciences, you weigh up the evidence and make your choice.

The problem I have with the Independent Party is that they all tend to vote the same way, or at least that is what their leaflet suggests. They all want a kite festival, park benches... you get the idea. The problem they have is that this unified thought does not fit with the notion that they are truly Independent. In fact they are truly tied to a party line.

And then they split.

I was uncertain about the difference between the second Independent Party with its unified policies and the first group however with two days to go before the election I have read about some differences. It isn't the first of April but the leaflet may have been written then. It seems that the second group are "INDEPENDENT people" (shades of The Life of Brian - "we're all individuals").

I love the next line. "Most of us have been working hard on the Town Council for the last 2 years in the face of fierce opposition from the MBI Political Party". I think they mean some of their candidates are not members of the Town Council but I prefer the alternative view in which some of them have not been working hard. Has the "fierce opposition" been targeted at this other party to try to stop them working hard? Please bear in mind that the members of the new party were elected to the Town Council as members of the MBI Political Party.

The next line is quite good too. "We know the difference between the TOWN COUNCIL and the CITY COUNCIL". Now it doesn't take much to know the difference between the two councils so this really is quite an insult but at least I know the difference between the two Independent philosophies. One likes the City council and the other doesn't. Well not quite, because the leader of this breakaway group wants to remain on the City Council so it can't be a fundamental principle that has led to an acrimonious split. Maybe there is a significant difference in beliefs but I suspect the division was just based on character. They fell out.

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Plumbing new depths with the no campaign

Our existing voting system is often referred to as "first-past-the-post", but is that a fair description? A candidate can win with just 26% of the votes cast, if there are three other candidates who each get 24 or 25 percent. Should 26% be referred to as the "finishing post"? Wouldn't "the first hurdle" be a better description? In contests where there happen to be just two candidates, the "finishing post" is, quite rightly, set at just over 50% of the votes. Why should it be any less in other cases? If we could have a voting system which ensured that any winner must have the backing of at least 50% of the voters, meaning that they can legitimately claim to represent a majority, shouldn't we go for that system?

For those who say that everyone should only have one vote, AV is actually exactly equivalent to a series of runoff elections. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes in the first count, the one with the least votes is eliminated and, effectively, the remainder participate in a seond election. Your second preference expresses how you will vote in this second election, should your first preference have been eliminated in the first one. Your third preference expresses how you will vote in the third election, and so on. It's as simple as that. There's no incomprehensible mysticism or overwhelming complication behind it, as the 'no' campaign would have you believe. It is, in fact, exactly equivalent to the procedure by which David Cameron was promoted as party leader by his fellow Conservative MPs.

"Conservative research" has now come up with the truly incredible notion that candidates who came third in 137 seats at last year’s election could have ended up becoming MPs – overtaking those who came first and second – under the ‘confusing’ AV system (see This despite the fact that Australia has had AV since 1918, and such an outcome has never happened there, not even once. They go on to outdo themselves with the utterly ludicrous idea that an eighth-place candidate - an independent called Richard Turner-Thomas in Torfaen in Wales -could have won under AV. Words cannot even begin to describe how silly this is, and yet it isn't even the worst of the nonsense that the 'no' campaign is coming up with. But you have the chance to say what you think of all these lies and distortions.

On Thursday..

Change the voting system.

Monday, 2 May 2011

"Make it so"

Someone said to me recently that they would support any party that could get the buses to stop near their house. It would be nice if local politicians could be helpful, but can it be done? One problem is that now, thanks to Margaret Thatcher’s deregulation, bus services are supplied by a variety of private companies. The county council has a transport policy, and it can influence these companies in various ways, such as with subsidies, but the days when the council could be like Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying “make it so” are gone. Another problem is that we might be able to do more with more county councillors, so it’s unfortunate that there are no county council elections this year.

Most bus services are commercial, operated by the private companies to make a profit. The local authority does however have the power to provide local bus services, in order to fill any significant gaps. This will normally be done by entering into a contract and paying a commercial operator to provide the service. We will bring requests to the attention of the county council, and use any means of persuasion that we can, but especially in the current economic climate we won’t always succeed. This is one of those cases where all we can promise is that we’ll do our best.

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Sunday, 1 May 2011

This is priceless

I was going to write about public transport today but you will have to wait until tomorrow. I have to tell you this story. One of our helpers was delivering leaflets in Morecambe and he happened to come across one of the Conservative candidates. He didn't know who it was but there was a conversation, and he offered the leaflet. The answer was "I'd better not take it as I am a Conservative candidate". This is priceless! He told her that she could take it to a Conservative meeting to see what they thought about it, and the Conservatives cannot vote for themselves for Morecambe Town Council as they are not standing.

When I am giving leaflets out I occasionally meet supporters of other parties who do not wish to read my leaflet. I try to persuade them, very often successfully, by saying that they cannot give their support to their particular party without knowing what the opposition are saying. Now we have candidates saying the same thing and we are aware that this particular candidate not only is unaware of opposition views but would feel in some way tainted by this knowledge.

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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Beauty surrounds

On the 21st June 2009 I wrote about the armorial bearings (the coat of arms) for Morecambe. This coat of arms was created in 1928 for the town of Morecambe and was used by the football club until about a year ago when Morecambe FC felt obliged to change it because they didn't have copyright. I have read reports that they felt permission lay with the town council. I wonder if they asked for permission.

Now it is election time and the Morecambe Bay Independent Party also uses the same logo.
Well to be more exact, they changed the original motto which was “beauty surrounds, health abounds” (which is just about as far as you can get away from party politics) to "people before politics" without a hint of irony. You see, this particular party gain votes by pretending that they are not a party. They have a tagline "sick of party politics" which they also use without a hint of irony.

This party knows that they need permission to use Morecambe's coat of arms, but I have never seen anything that says they have been granted this permission. If permission lies with the council then it would smack of corruption if they used it. If it doesn't (and it didn't in 2009) then they should celebrate being given permission to use it. However my guess is that they just decided to use it and not ask permission. A logo which belongs to the whole town should not be appropriated by one particular party.

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Friday, 29 April 2011

No link with Labour and Lenin

As it is less than a week to our local elections I thought I would choose a political theme for the photography blog and this is one of those occasions when I use the same blog entry for both of my blogs.

It is well over twenty years since a Labour councillor showed me the similarity between the Labour Rose and the silhouette of Lenin. I have always thought that there was a strong resemblance but now that I have worked on the photo of a leaflet I am not convinced. Maybe the Labour Rose has changed over the years but I think I will settle on the notion that there is no connection.

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Thursday, 28 April 2011

Vote yes for a fairer system

It is at least a year ago when I was speaking with someone from Ireland. I asked about the voting system and how they managed with STV. Isn't it difficult to cope with a numbered system rather than a cross for one candidate? The answer he gave me, of course, was that it was easy to place numbers against the candidates.

Yesterday I was again talking with someone from Ireland. She was telling me how it was important to get fair proportions of elected representatives to the votes that were cast. Religious bigotry was evident and reflected in the religious backgrounds of elected representatives. She told me about ratepayer suffrage in which you didn't get a vote if you lived in a council house. It just so happened that most people in council houses belonged to one particular religion.

She also told me that company directors had more than one vote and that there were block votes going to big businesses until the late 60s. If you thought rotten boroughs were a thing of the past then you don't have to go back too far before you find systems that are obviously wrong. A change to make the system fairer was really important. Now universal adult suffrage sounds good but Ireland needed a fair system as well - not first-past-the-post.

AV is not difficult to understand and nobody complains about one person's vote being transferred from one candidate to another. That's what happens in a system that gives fairer representation and that's the best reason to vote for AV in the referendum, because it is a fairer system.

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