Thursday, September 30, 2010

If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen

Three hours on a train and there's plenty of time to catch up on some of those little jobs that have been shelved for the past couple of weeks due to conference. I was hoping to get more posts up during the week but the great thing about great plans is that they never go to plan.

Anyway, my most embarrassing moment of the week was on Tuesday evening. We have just bought my mother's VW Golf. Tuesday evening was meant to be the first time I would drive it in the evening. Headlights are a must. I was due at a meeting at 7pm. It was 6.45 and I got in the car. Ten minutes later I was still outside the house trying to work out where the switch for the headlights was. After struggling with every lever and dial I could find, resulting in an interesting display of flashing lights which must have entertained the neighbours, I ended up phoning Mam. (David who is normally first port of call for anything complicated such as switching on a light or recording a tv programme was at a meeting so I lacked my normal solution to technical problems.) It turned out the dial I needed was right in front of me. I simply thought it was the dial for opening the air vents!

The best At-Last-We-Have-A-Use-For-Jonathan moment was also on Tuesday evening. I go nowhere without a camera. So when I turned up at the Council's Whickham garden awards, I found myself in the role of photographer. The photos went on to a disc yesterday and I took them into the Civic Centre to give to the officer only to forget completely to hand them over. My thanks go to Cllr John Hamilton who was at the Tyne and Wear Museums Ctte with me this morning. He kindly took the disc and has hopefully handed it on.

Most-Useful-Piece-of-Information-Overlooked-By-Jonathan moment was also this morning. I am doing some research on the Washingwell Roman Fort near Whickham. And I discovered this morning at the museums committee that there has been an exhibition about the early Roman occupation of the North, pre-Hadrian's Wall, in the Segedunum Musem in Wallsend. This is the period from which Washingwell dates. And the date for the end of this exhibition? This weekend. Not very helpful as I am on a train to London and won't be back til Tuesday! I understand it will be transferred to Carlisle. I feel a trip to Cumbria coming on.

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Miliband's departure could be the big break for Balls

The departure of David Miliband leaves politics generally the poorer. It also leaves the Labour party with a hole at the centre. DM may not have taken up a position that I would agree with every time he made it, but he was a centrist politician who understood the importance of remaining in the centre ground. As I said on Friday, his election as Labour leader at least would mark a recognition that Labour must remain in the centre ground if they are to return to office within the next decade. The election of Ed Miliband would mark instead a shift to the margins and a move away from power. ED won, and the long march begins.

The departure of DM however opens up the door to Ed Balls. His speech yesterday was clearly a pitch for the post of Shadow Chancellor. Balls is a bruiser and would relish the prospect of leading an anti-cuts campaign. His views reflect much of what Labour delegates were claiming. Whilst Darling and even Ed Miliband warn that not all cuts should be opposed, Labour members will not follow that line. Their mood is to oppose every cuts. ED's election has opened the floodgates of oppositionism and were Balls to be appointed Shadow Chancellor, it will mean Labour are following a populist, irresponsible line that will blow to pieces the years of hard work in the 1990s that gave Labour the image of a responsible party capable of taking difficult decisions when it comes to the economy and tax.

If ED is true to his word in his Leader speech about being responsible and supporting some cuts, he will not make Balls his Shadow Chancellor. If he is a populist with not answers to the biggest issue of the day, Balls will get the appointment he wants.
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Off to London

I am currently heading down to London on the train for a few days. I've been asked to do some photos and video for someone. As usual, I choose the days of travel with impeccable bad timing. Having had loads of rain through the week which stopped me from getting out to pick various crops, today is sunny and warm, ideal fruit picking weather. I just hope the fruit survives until I'm back next week. David is holding the fort back home so should be able to get in some crops from the allotment. But the wild foods, especially blackberries, are early this year and have slightly caught me by surprise.

Meanwhile, whilst at Tyne and Wear Committee in Sunderland this morning, I discovered another councillor in Gateshead who keeps chickens. I feel there may be a bit of self-sufficiency trading going on: marmalade for eggs!

Talking of self-sufficiency, one drawback of going to London is that I have to survive on bought food. The more self-sufficient we become at home, the less I like the food available in shops. Commercially produced bread in particular is rubbish. I've eaten better cardboard! Despite this, I'm aiming to do some work on wild foods growing in urban areas whilst in London. If anyone is interested, you can follow this on my other blog

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Tiny turnouts in the Miliband race

If I were David Miliband, I would be hopping mad about the byzantine electoral college that gave his brother the Leadership despite the latter being rejected by the members and MPs. I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the tricks used by the GMB to ensure the bosses got an endorsement for their candidate. This included sending out the ballot papers in Ed Miliband envelopes which urged members to back the GMB candidate.

The result of this sort of Putin style electioneering was that EM was so well ahead in the union section that he could overturn the votes of the members and MPs.

But matters do not stop there. I have just looked at the turnouts in the trade union section. The GMB issued 554,130 ballot papers (complete with their pro EM literature). Turnout was a mere 7.8%. This was a contest that failed completely to catch on with trade union members. Only 18,182 members actually gave their first preference to EM. There were 6,352 members of the GMB who spoilt their ballot papers rather than take part in this charade of an election. That was more than voted for each of the three non-Milibands.

The GMB was not the only union that backed EM and got a derisory turnout. Unison came in at an even worse 6.7%. Unite on the other hand at least managed to get into double figures, scoring a whopping 10.5%.

These tiny minorities, under the heavy influence of their union masters, have been able to impose their candidate against the wishes of the Labour members and MPs. Democray in the Labour party? My a*se.
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Is that it?

I've just listened to Alisdair Darling's speech to the Labour Conference. A long defence of what he did in Government. Fair enough. An attack on the Tories in the last Parliament for failing to come up with any solutions to the banking crisis two years ago. Fair enough. That of course is all history. Where was the content about the future, about the way forward? Apart from a quibble with the Coalition about eliminating the deficit quicker than Labour, there was nothing said about what Labour should be doing other than "staying in the centre ground."

"Is that it?" I asked myself. Seems as though it is. No answer to the greatest issue of the day.
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Union boss highlights the Labour dilemma

Ed Miliband stated yesterday that Labour will not oppose every cut. Quite which cuts he will not oppose are not explained but it is at least an attempt to be credible on the deficit. Miliband's attempt to reposition himself away from all the claims of opposition to cuts he made during the Leadership election however were instantly torpedoed by Ken McCluskey, deputy boss of Unite. This morning, in a BBC News interview, he said there was no need for any cuts at all.

And there lies the dilemma for Labour. Do they oppose cuts and get the short term benefit that will accrue, complete with a general feeling of comradely warmth that individual Labour members will experience by taking an unrealistic posture? Or do they take a more level headed approach that acknowledges cuts are needed, therefore appearing credible to the electorate but risking alienating a significant proportion of Labour members and trade union bosses?

It will be interesting to see how this debate proceeds but on Friday last week I argued that the election of Ed Miliband will be seen as a green light by many in the Labour movement for a march to the unrealistic fringe, even if EM realises that credibility with voters requires backing some cuts. What we had today with McCluskey is only the start of that debate, and I suspect it is a debate that will tie up Labour for some time to come.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lib Dem Blogger of the Year Awards - the video

This is the first of my Conference videos and probably the one of most interest to fellow Lib Dem bloggers - the Lib Dem Blogger of the Year Awards. Alas, everyone somehow forgot to nominate me for anything! Undeterred, I still turned up with the camera to film the event.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Geek has got it

I never thought the Labour party could be so interesting! So the Geek has got it. Ed Miliband was rejected by the MPs and the Labour members, but has been foisted on the Labour party by the Trade Union vote. Labour wanted to go in the direction of electability. The trade unions wanted to go back to the 1980s. They have won. Labour have lost.
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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Labour leadership

With less than a day to go to the declaration of the Labour leadership result, I thought it would be worth delving into the what the outcome could mean. I don't think there is a need to waste our time on the non-Milibands as the consensus from all sides is that Abbott, Balls and Burnham are out of the running.

So firstly, David Miliband (DM). He was clearly the front runner in the eyes of the Westminster media pack 3 months ago though I have previously pointed out that there was no evidence to back up this DM winning prediction. I suspect the Westminster journos were making predictions based on their knowledge of MPs in the Commons hothouse. They lack however any significant knowledge and often understanding of grassroots politics. As the Labour Parliamentary Party was mainly built up under Blair, then it is likely that a Blairite candidate would have more pull with the MPs. There could be a bit of a gulf between the MPs and the rest of the Labour party if DM is elected.

So will the election of DM the Blairite (despite attempts to distance himself from his former Leader) mark a continuation of a New Labour outlook within the Labour Party? My suspicion is that it will only be a partial readoption of what won Labour three elections. The genie is rather out of the bottle with Labour and my reading of the situation is that most Labour members are wanting to head back to the comfort zone of opposition and the sort of policies that lost them elections in the Thatcher years. DM will experience some difficulties in moving his party in the direction needed to win an election.

Nevertheless, DM as Leader at least implies a recognition by Labour that electability is important. And he has so far avoided the more extreme attacks on the Lib Dems whilst his fellow contenders, especially his brother, have engaged in a battle to be the most beastly to the Lib Dems. This is not just an interesting debating point. At the next election in 2015 the two most likely outcomes are a Conservative majority or no overall control. The chances of a Labour majority are slim. If Labour wish to return to office in 2015, they have to be open to coalition with the Lib Dems. DM offers Labour the best opportunity to do that.

That cannot be said of Ed Miliband (EM). He has clearly positioned himself as a candidate with left-leaning credentials. Whether or not he genuinely wants to take Labour in a more traditional left wing direction is not clear. I suspect he has agreed to carry the baggage of the old Labour supporters he has courted, even though he may not necessarily believe it is credible to rebuild Labour on such thin foundations. Nevertheless, EM has built up a massive head of steam behind a shift to the left and expectations will need to be satisfied. EM will have great difficulty stopping a full scale charge to the left by the Labour grassroots.

EM has also whipped up a fervour against the Lib Dems which will also make future coalition discussions extremely difficult. In effect, the choice of EM is tantamount to a declaration that Labour will reject coalition after the general election even though it is their only realistic route back to power within the next decade. The choice of EM has a wider impact on politics. It narrows down needlessly the likely choices before the British people of the political make up of the government in 2015: majority Conservative or Con Lib Dem coalition. It removes the option of a Lab Lib Dem coalition. Whilst I have serious differences with Labour, the people should at least have the option of choosing such a government in 2015.

The final point I make about the Labour Leadership is that DM is much more positive about getting a yes vote in the AV referendum. EM seems uninterested. He is also beholden to the likes of the GMB who are against reform. It will be much more difficult to win the referendum without the active support of the Labour party leader. It could be therefore that if Labour elects Ed Miliband they will be opting for a decade in opposition and wreck voting reform that could lock them out of power for an even longer period.
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The banks are squealing

The publication today of the Commission into Banking's report on the issues they will consider has not come a moment too soon. They have a year to come up with their proposals to reform the banking system. I am looking forward to what they come up with. As a supporter of liberal economics, for capitalism to work properly, competition is needed. When markets are dominated by a small number of giant operators, competition is reduced, service deteriorates and costs to customers go up. Monopoly is bad for markets and needs to be stopped from developing. I covered all this when I worked in the Lib Dem Policy Unit earlier in the last decade when I wrote our policy paper on competition and business.

So, hopefully the Commission will recommend a break up of the big banks, especially the Lloyds Group, the creation of which was a poisonous legacy of the last Labour government.

What we have heard today however is the squealing of the top brass in the banking sector. Stephen Lester, brought in to head Royal Bank of Scotland after its near collapse, calls the inquiry a "red herring". He is of course top cat in a business that is now 83% owned by the taxpayer. His business is therefore a direct beneficiary of the unintended blackmailable situation of being too big to fail. So, I really think he should not be expressing such comments from such a privileged position.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When the going gets tough, the defectors get going

It is always disappointing to learn of a defection from the Lib Dems just as it is pleasing to learn of defections to us. Alas, I have to give you the disappointing news. Yvonne McNicol, councillor for the neighbouring ward to mine, has jumped ship to sit as a Labour councillor. It's a pity she never at any point raised concerns with us. I had counted her as a friend and as someone who worked incredibly hard to get her elected and re-elected, I am deeply upset she chose not to speak to me about what she was going to do. I learnt of her defection yesterday when the Journal phoned me.

Yvonne is due for re-election next year but this year, Labour won the seat that was up for election in the ward. She was facing an uphill struggle to hold on though I would have done everything possible to ensure she would have won as the defending Lib Dem councillor. Yvonne would have had to work hard to hold on but I have lots of memories of her saying to me that putting out Focus leaflets was often difficult for her in terms of her own time.

I am not going to question her motives but her explanation that she is unhappy with the cuts and the coalition takes some swallowing given she has not raised any concerns with us despite many opportunities to do so.

The claim that she is against government cuts is all the more baffling. She is joining the Labour group that cut millions from Gateshead's services in March, nearly two months before the Coalition was formed. She is also joining a party that closed her local library and post office. Her claim that Coalition policies are damaging Gateshead is remarkable given she is joining a party that increased the wealth divide between rich and poor and doubled unemployment. And suggesting that restoring the pensions link and taking thousands of low paid Gateshead residents out of tax do not strike me as damaging to the borough.

But Yvonne has made her decision. Whatever the motive, she has left us. I am disappointed with that, and given that I have worked so hard in her ward for her, I am quite upset. She asks that her decision be respected. Okay, we will do that but I say to you Yvonne that you must respect you former colleagues who worked so hard to get you where you are now and who you have now left. You have joined a party that I find is often disrespectful to me. I hope you are not going to join in the treatment that I have endured from your new party. Respect, Yvonne, is needed on both sides.

Government is not comfortable, nor should it be. Decisions should be justified. Opposition is comfortable because it does not require you to justify decisions that have been taken. That's not to say that opposition always behaves in such a way, but at the moment, Labour are behaving in a very irresponsible way. After years of great discomfort, Labour have entered the comfort zone of opposition.

I guess a small number of those who join parties of whatever colour in their good times in opposition end up finding the move from the opposition comfort zone to be too uncomfortable. When the going gets tough, the defectors get going - back to the comfort zone.
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Conference ends

This is the first opportunity I have had to get a post written since I was on my way to conference on Saturday. I am now back on the train, waiting to leave Liverpool and head home.

I predicted previously that the media would report on a different conference to our own despite journalists attending in record numbers. What news coverage I saw suggests the party was in uproar over the coalition. My experience is that the vast majority of members attending conference were pleased with the fact we are now in government. That's not to say all members like the Coalition, but more about that on a different post.

Two significant physical features jumped out immediately as marking a change with the past. It was vastly bigger than any previous Lib Dem conference. And on arrival, I felt like I was coming into an airport terminal - security officers and scanning machines everywhere. I have been an observer at both Tory and Labour conferences in the past so I have experienced the same sort of security at conferences already. Nevertheless, it is a rather sad reflection on the state of where the country and national security is when party political conferences are under such a state of siege.

That said, where were the armies of protesting trade unionists? Saturday saw what could only be described as school leavers wearing Unite trade union jackets ranting at us, in rather middle class tones, as we went through the main gates that "You are all Tories." As far as being constructive, persuasive debate, it wasn't. They were rather small in numbers and no one was taking much of an interest in them. They may have felt a warm glow in themselves as they had had a good shout at Lib Dems, but they achieved absolutely nothing other than to become the butt of a few conference jokes. I was tempted to ask them whether they planned to wreck anyone else's holiday (Unite is of course the union that has brought out the BA workers) but then decided I couldn't be bothered and went for a cup of tea instead.

The only other protesters we saw were a handful of Communications Workers Union members handing out leaflets opposing plans to save the Royal Mail from collapse. Their demonstration was disappointingly tiny.

My time at conference was spent mainly on taking photos and video. I have somewhere in the region of 2000 pics and 6 hours of tape to sort. Greg Stone from Newcastle, and I have filmed a video programme for members about conference. It will take some time before it's all edited but it should be on YouTube soon. We have interviews with Vince Cable and Chris Huhne as well as a number of ordinary members.

So, end of conference and I am now heading home to catch up with sleep and the rest of my life.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Off to conference

It was all planned in detail. I would take our car to conference. It would be its last journey. It is being replaced and is heading for the second hand rust market. However, I hate driving and have not driven any long distance for over a decade. So this morning, I woke up and decided I couldn't face the prospect of driving all the way to Liverpool. The detailed route I had drawn up to get there was scrapped. David gave me a lift to Newcastle Central and I am now on the train, complete with suitcase, laptop and what appears to be a mobile (and rather heavy) studio of cameras.

So, last week was TUC conference, held in La La Land, with Back To The Future style debates on general strikes and "co-ordinated action" against any plans to restore the economy and cut the deficit. Clearly the "comrades" were enjoying a retro 1980s revival.

Meanwhile our conference will be attended by an army of journalists who will undoubtedly leave us with a feeling that they were there but were reporting on a completely different gathering. Anyway, I will be doing lots of filming at Liverpool. And I am putting on 3 photo ops as well, one of which is this afternoon. Hopefully I'll get there on time!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

A dodgy election ploy to help Ed Miliband win

I discovered what at best can be described as a dodgy election ploy and at worst as little better than a Mugabe style voting tactic when I returned from holiday earlier this week. Let me explain....

The Trade Unions have made no secret of their desire to see Ed Miliband as the new Labour leader. They see him as a more leftwing character, more in tune with the wishes of the union barons (trade union members may have a different view on matters). And most importantly for the likes of Kenny, Prentice and co, Red Ed as he was dubbed by the Sun this morning, is the candidate who could beat David Miliband, the Blairite who was fast tracked to Cabinet by his chum and now Labour hate figure, Tony Blair. Who the trade unions back, as corporate organisations, is their affair. How they arrive at that decision is their own affair. But there is a difference between what the corporate view of an organisation is, and that of individual members. This is why the trade unions moved to a system of individual members who pay the political levy being able to vote in such matters as the Labour leadership contests. Even Labour saw that the union block vote being wielded by trade union barons to choose the Labour leader was a public relations disaster. But old habits die hard. Look at the following.

GMB Sept 10 1

This is the envelope in which the Labour leadership ballot papers were sent to GMB members. I was so staggered by what I saw that I felt the need to photograph it and share this Mugabe style election tactic with the rest of the world. Whilst I think it is reasonable for an organisation to have a corporate view on an issue of who the Labour leader is, for the same organisation then to send out the ballot papers in envelopes emblazoned with publicity for one candidate must surely amount to official sanctioning of an inbuilt advantage for the campaign of the person the union bosses are backing.

In other words, this is an abuse of democracy. It's the sort of thing you would expect to see in Putin's Russia where the media was controlled by Putin's backers and opposition was virtually excluded from the airwaves during election periods. But it wasn't just the envelope. Below is the letter that it contained from Paul Kenny, big chief of the GMB.

GMB Sept 10 3

As you can see, over half of it is a eulogy to Ed Miliband. Granted, it does also direct voters to pages 14-15 of the magazine that came with the ballot papers if people wanted to read more about the views of the 5 candidates. Here's the magazine:

GMB Sept 10 2

Note that Miliband Junior is endorsed on the front page. "Vote Ed Miliband, GMB's choice for Labour leader" - which could lead some people to think that as GMB members they are required to vote for Red Ed.

Does the GMB, on pages 14-15 give each candidate equal billing? Have a look:

GMB Sept 10 4

The answer is no. The pages had the minimum of space for the views of the candidates (in that respect they were all treated equally), the accompanying article had more about John McConnell who failed to get nominated, but the page carries a clear article that the GMB corporately are backing Ed Miliband.

It strikes me as bizarre that the trade unions can get away with this sort of undemocratic activity. Surely the Labour party must have rules that ensure fairness in their own internal voting systems that prevents what most of us would regard as a distortion of democracy. But it also raises a more troubling issue. Assuming Labour want to return to power at some point, they will be in the pockets of a small number of individuals who have no problem with engaging in the sort of activity that contaminates democracy and pollutes politics.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Labour u-turn

I got back home from holiday around 7pm this evening and settled down to reading council papers and the local newspapers from the past 10 days. A small story in yesterday's Journal caught my attention. Headlined "Queen's Speech delay sparks Labour anger", the article was about the decision to move the Queen's Speech from its normal November spot to late spring. The aim is to bring it into line with the election cycle, now that we are moving into fixed term Parliaments with elections in May every five years. The change is logical but it means the 2011 Queen's Speech will be delayed by about 6 months. The alternative would be to have two Queen's Speeches in a period of 6 months. That is just plain daft.

Labour however have come up with their predictable, manufactured outrage. The extra 6 months has another advantage in that it gives greater time to allow for scrutiny of government legislation. It would be reasonable to think Labour would be happy with that. After all, they made a gigantic fuss about the Academies Bill being rushed through before the recess and demanded more time for scrutiny. Now that they have been given more time to scrutinise legislation, they are outraged yet again. Seems there is no pleasing some.
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Making the elderly into traffic-halting shock troops

Has the TUC gone completely mad? The latest suggestions from the "brothers" gathered at the Trade Union Congress is for the elderly to take to the motorway system on foot to lead sit down protests against cuts! Well, that's very nice of Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, and author of this remarkable call to action, to volunteer the elderly as the shock troops of this unbelievable plan of protest. What unbelievable madness can we expect trade union barons to crow about next? Babies abseiling down Big Ben? School children standing in the way of Eurostar trains?

These people really are living in La La Land.
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CWU union barons target marginal seat Coalition MPs - well there's a surprise

Plans to save the Royal Mail by turning it into a private sector company with a substantial minority employee shareholding have been met with a highly predictable response from the Communication Workers Union. The CWU, one of the most reactionary of old style trade unions, will target the 71 most marginal Lib Dem and Conservative MPs.

The CWU has been a thorn in the side of Labour, never mind the Coalition parties. As a repository for the most unreconstructed and failed "socialist" policies of the 60s and 70s, they were the ones screaming the loudest against the last government's attempts to part privatise the Royal Mail. Labour's part privatisation had some significant flaws (the biggest being that the company would in effect continue to have the restraints imposed on public sector organisations that do not apply in the private sector) but the principle of changing the ownership to generate the capital needed for investment was right. The CWU fought those plans and the weakness and shambolic nature of the Labour government at the time meant ministers were too scared to take on a vested interest like the CWU.

Labour will by now have completely forgotten (or at least prefer to bury the fact) that they too attempted to privatise the Royal Mail. They will undoubtedly fight the plans of the current government, but they will have to come up with an alternative. Keeping the Royal Mail as it is means the public sector will have to find the capital needed to modernise the company. Given that such capital is now in short supply (remember it was Labour's decision to slash public sector capital investment as a proportion of GDP by 2014 by two-thirds) quite where capital for investment in Royal Mail will come from under Labour is an unanswered question.

Back to the CWU. They are planning to run a campaign against the Coalition MPs in the most marginal seats. That's fine by me. It is after all their democratic right to do so. It comes as no surprise to me. But the CWU, like the Labour party, must explain their alternative. When they have been challenged in the past, they resort to a formula that ignores the real world: restore the monopoly on the sorting of post to the Royal Mail. The effect of that would be to bankrupt the businesses that are now in the mail sector and throw onto the dole those people working for those businesses. If that is still CWU policy, they must be honest about it. But such a policy does not explain where the capital will come from to invest in Royal Mail.

Or is it just that the CWU plans got lost in the post?
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to Britain and the TUC is still in La La Land

I got back to the UK last night after a week floating about the North Atlantic and it seems the TUC is still abroad at its holiday home in La La Land. Not only do the majority of union bosses claim no cuts at all are needed, I heard Brendan Bracken, the TUC's top fat cat, claiming to speak on behalf of the nation, alleging that the people of Britain will not accept any cuts. Quite what his qualifications are to claim for himself the position of Spokesman for the British People are not clear.

Meanwhile, I read that the Lady Harriet must have been to the gathering of the TUC brothers and sisters in Manchester and offered the support of the Labour party in the TUC's "co-ordinated" campaign against cuts. If this leads to strikes, presumably Labour will back them if Harman's speech is to be more than just an empty gesture.

However, not all union barons have thrown away all common sense. Jim McAuslan, leader of the British Airline Pilots Association said, "To say that we do not have to cut one penny of expenditure to deal with the deficit is getting the tone wrong." So there are some union leaders, a minority admittedly, who live in the real world.

As I have said before, no one likes cuts but debt is not the friend of people on low or modest incomes. If we don't get the deficit under control now, we will pay more in the long run. And that means cutting even further in the future the services on which many people rely. That may be Labour's choice, but it isn't mine.
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Monday, September 06, 2010

Opportunism Knocks - Labour and AV

I was a bit baffled by an article in the Independent this morning with the headline 'Liberal Democrats urged to side with Labour over voting reform proposals." I read through the article and could find nothing in it as to what position Labour were adopting on reform other than to vote against the Bill today in the Commons. If Labour really want to attract the support of Lib Dem MPs, their means of achieving it are bizarre. Let's examine it in detail.

Labour fought the election on a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on changing to AV. The referendum itself was a key concession to the Lib Dems in the Coalition Agreement from the Conservatives. Labour, having performed an opportunistic and cynical u-turn, now want the Lib Dems to vote with them against something Labour campaigned for only 4 months ago and which was a key offering to the Lib Dems in the first place. Precisely which planet do Labour inhabit?

Labour claim that they are against what they previously were elected to deliver because they claim the government are "gerrymandering" the election process. The reality behind their claim is that the undemocratic advantage that unfairly boosted their majorities over the Blair years is being scrapped. Constituencies are being redrawn so that they are of a similar size. Under the current boundaries, Labour tends to hold the majority of the smaller seats, giving them an undemocratic advantage. No doubt, had Labour been around in 1832 they would have campaigned to retain the rotten boroughs!

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to begin the reform process this country needs. Labour needs to be on the side of reform and change. Yet it seems they are interested only in short term political gain and sticking the knife into the Lib Dems. Opportunity (or rather opportunism) knocks for Labour. Looks like they could blow that opportunity.
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Protecting Blair

The summer publishing season for Labour memoirs proceeds apace with the revelations of Tony Blair and his dysfunctional Chancellor Gordon Brown grabbing the headlines. It is amazing how much Blair has become a figure of hate for so many. Understandably, his decision to invade Iraq causes the greatest anger. But that's with the general public. What about the way Labour members feel about him?

I suspect the venom they reserve for him is as poisonous, if not more so, than that dished out by the "Socialist" brethren for the Lib Dems. They hate Blair because they made them electable by dumping all the unelectable policies and posturing that so many of them want to return to. All those spend, spend, spend irresponsible, ignore the cost, bankrupt the country policies that no one other than Labour members think are the solutions to the nation's ills.

Blair as a hate figure for Labour serves another purpose. Labour can blame all their own problems on him (and Brown). It means Labour members never having to address their own responsibility for the events and policies of recent years. "Blame Blair and Brown, nothing to do with us," they will say.

So, the increased security around Blair following the protests that greeted his book launch in Dublin raises the question, who is he being protected from: Labour members or an angry public?
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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

50,000 YouTube viewings last month

August has been my busiest month so far on YouTube. I started August with my videos having been viewed 1,222,886 times. I started September with 1,273,124 viewings. So, for the first time ever, my videos have been viewed 50,000 times or more in a single month. If anyone has nothing better to do, they can visit my channel at

Meanwhile, my blog about trying to become self-sufficient has easily outstripped my political blog for page downloads this month. had nearly 5,000 visits, more than double this blog. I have, however been a bit quite on the political blog front in August though as we approach the conference season, no doubt, my number of posts will increase.