Archive for March, 2010

You will get me, I’m part of the union?

March 30, 2010

There are legitimate criticisms to be made of trade union leaders who enjoy generous expenses accounts, but this story in the Daily Mail is pretty smeartastic:

BA union boss and a Bangkok go-go bar: Two-day stopover paid for by Unite included visit to seedy joint

Read it and I think you’ll agree with me that the title promises so much and yet the report fails to deliver.

Whilst walking around in the vicinity of his Bangkok hotel Derek Simpson was recognised by a British tourist. Said tourist shouts out Derek Simpson’s name. Desperate for a drink and undoubtedly a tad perturbed by a stranger calling out his name, Simpson heads straight into the nearest bar.

Tourist bloke, bizarrely, follows Simpson into this bar so that he can keep staring at him. Simpson’s discomfit is increased through the realisation that he has entered into a morally dubious establishment. He therefore makes a swift exist.

Looking at the Daily Mail’s picture of tourist bloke, I can’t say I blame Simpson. And the whole ‘walking into a dodgy bar’ scenario by mistake – well, we’ve all been there haven’t we?

Gutter journalism is still gutter journalism, even when set in an exotic location. The right-wing press despise trade unions and will concoct pathetic smears on their leaders to try to undermine public support for workers’ representatives.

The Chancellor-off

March 29, 2010

Well, Alistair Darling was a bit more passionate than expected, which was good.

Gideon Osborne was less sneery than expected, which was good for him.

And Vince Cable kept the audience happy, which I’m sure the Lib Dems are very pleased with.

Darling definitely seemed the least articulate of the three. I was also annoyed with his continuing conservatism. But he laid some good punches on the Tories.

Osborne had well-rehearsed populist lines up his sleeve, yet I don’t think he came across as Chancellor material.

The Channel 4 website has the following opinion poll result:

 Who is the best choice for Chancellor?
36% Vince Cable – 32% Alistair Darling – 32% George Osborne

Some highlights from Chris Mullin’s valedictory speech

March 28, 2010

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab):

As you will know, Mr Speaker, it is the custom when we come to this place for a new Member to make a maiden speech. With your indulgence, I wonder if I might initiate a new genre tonight: the valedictory speech.

I have been in this place 23 years. I hope that, during that time, I have left the occasional footprint in the sand, but I am under no illusion. Only a handful of those of us who currently strut these corridors will still be remembered in 10 or 20 years’ time and I do not expect to be among them. Before the waters close over my head, however, I would like to take this opportunity to place on record a few random thoughts that might be of interest to those who come afterwards.

To those who ask where I am coming from, I reply that I am a socialist with a small s, a liberal with a small l, a green with a small g and a Democrat with a capital D. Although most of us are more prosperous than we have ever been, we live in an age of disillusion and corrosive cynicism. It is fashionable to believe that all politicians are useless, that nothing works, that everything is bad and getting worse and that all political activity is pointless. I do not accept this.

Despite the catastrophe of Iraq, I sincerely believe that the achievements of the last three Labour Governments have been considerable. I have only to look at my own constituency to see the truth of that proposition. With hand on heart I can say with confidence that during these last 13 years the lives and life chances of many of my least prosperous constituents have been immeasurably improved.

The Government have, for reasons I can only guess at, been rather shy about it, but we have redistributed some wealth. The minimum wage, working tax credits, pension credits and the huge investment in health, education and public transport have made a considerable impact and I defy anyone to argue otherwise. In my constituency in 1997, and one has to pinch oneself to recall this, a significant number of people-security guards, mail-order workers and care workers-were earning as little as £1 an hour. The waiting time for a hip operation at Sunderland Royal hospital was up to two years and it is now 18 weeks and falling.

There is a secondary school in my constituency, Sandhill View, at which 15 years ago less than 10 per cent.-I repeat, less than 10 per cent.-of GCSE pupils were achieving five A to C grades. Today, Sandhill View is under dynamic new management. It has been entirely rebuilt, sharing a library, sports and other facilities with the surrounding community. It covers exactly the same catchment area as the old school, and around 60 per cent. of pupils obtain five A to C grades. To be sure, there is still room for progress, but I think that the House will agree that there has been a dramatic improvement on what went before.

Nor do I believe that such changes are confined only to Sunderland. City centres such as those in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, once in near terminal decline, have been reborn. No doubt there are many reasons why this has happened, but I do believe that it has something to do with the fact that we have enjoyed more than a decade of Labour Government.

There has been progress, too, in other important areas, such as the environment, criminal justice, and international development, and above all in Ireland, where peace has been achieved after many years of apparently intractable conflict. And who would have thought that we would live to see the day when a new Labour Government took a controlling interest in three major banks with-eventually-Conservative support?

There are social and constitutional reforms that were controversial in their day but which, having been enacted, will endure for ever. They include the bans on smoking in public places and on cigarette advertising, the requirement that political parties disclose their source of funding, and the Freedom of Information Act-painful though that has proved for us humble servants of the people. Whatever the outcome of the election, no one can take those achievements away from the Governments of the last 13 years, and I note that no Opposition party is intending to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I depart with mixed feelings. I have heard it said that most MPs stay one Parliament too long, and I thought it better to go while people are still asking “Why?” rather than “When?” There will be withdrawal symptoms. Leaving now is either the best thing I have ever done or the biggest mistake of my life. At this point, I have no idea which.

I do know this, however: I count it a privilege to have been born in a democracy and to have served in this place. The great thing about democracy is that, although harsh things are sometimes said, we are not actually trying to kill each other. Differences are ultimately resolved at the ballot box. One side wins; one side loses; and the loser lives to fight another day. Mr. Speaker, those are the last words that I shall speak in this place.


March 28, 2010

Being inundated with thousands of leaflets which require folding and delivering over the next seven days does not make me very receptive to emails like this:

Young Fabians 50th Year Event
Election Special with Lord Neil Kinnock

Dear Friend,

This is a reminder of our Election Special event tomorrow – Lord Kinnock in conversation with the Young Fabians. There is still time to book your place at the event.

I’m pleased to announced that former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Oona King, will be chairing the event.

Lord Kinnock will be answering your questions about his time as Labour leader, the fight ahead for Labour at this general election, and the importance of young activists in holding Cameron’s Conservatives to account between now and polling day.

When will organisers of events like this realise that the time for chitchat is over! If I had my way I would have imposed a ban on any Labour affiliates holding conferences, discussion forums and suchlike from January.

Instead of going to meetings to talk about the election campaign it would be much better for these “young activists” to spend their evenings in their nearest marginal constituencies making themselves useful.

I’m sure most of them do indeed help out with campaigning efforts, but assuming that people only have a limited amount of time they are able/willing to devote to Labour-related stuff it is pointless for them to use up an evening listening to Kinnock waffle (as inspiring as that waffle may be) when they could be doing something more practical…

For example, they could fold and deliver leaflets!

Two party leaders making fools of themselves when discussing gay rights in interviews

March 26, 2010

Ex-PR man David Cameron had a bit of a public relations disaster this week when messing up an interview with a journalist from Gay Times.

Trying to argue that the Conservatives are now gay-friendly, Cameron is embarrassed when he’s asked about the not very pro-gay rights voting record of Tory MEPs and he is forced to admit he does not know what they’ve been up to.

After saying he takes a firm line on supporting gay rights as human rights, he then gets himself in a muddle by trying to argue that he allows free votes on gay rights matters.

Watching him squirm and backtrack is cringeworthy. Not very polished, to say the least. And his committment to gay rights must be questioned.

Nick Griffinfuhrer of the BNP was also interviewed about gay rights this week. Iain Dale (himself gay) somewhat controversially decided to interview Nasty Nick.

The result is at once infuriating and entertaining.

Why is the BNP so anti gay?
We’re not drastically anti gay. We were, but it was just a reflection of white working class culture of the 70s and so on. Its unfamiliar, it’s odd and I’m afraid it is creepy. Grown men kissing in public is creepy to most people. You don’t often see it but if you do see it, it’s not a matter of homophobia, it’s odd and you have to explain it to little kids and so on – that’s strange. We’re not anti gay. I took over a party which had a total ban on homosexual members. We’ve got gay members now and people know who they are, but it’s don’t ask don’t tell.

Why should it affect anything?
Because it does affect because of the actions of the militant gay lobby.

Who are about as insignificant as the number of terrorist muslims…
All muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are muslims and as for gays, not all gays are militant and want to shove it down everyone’s throats…

…so to speak…
Indeed. And force sex education on young children, and of course isn’t just a gay thing, it’s a leftist break up of the family. It’s Marxist in origin, but it’s the rainbow alliance of Marxists and gay activists and so on. There is a hetrophobia amongst some of those people when they refer to us as ’breeders’ and so on.

Amongst about a quarter of a per cent.
I know its a very small number.

You are generalising…
…but you were asking where it came from and that’s where it came from. The simple fact is that the party that I took over had a policy of persecuting gays in the party, and was homophobic and also had a policy of re-imposing the 1968 ban on homosexuality. The position we have moved to which has taken some doing because there are people who didn’t like it, wouldn’t change the old reactionaries, the gays in denial. Different people fought it tooth and nail and accused me of all sorts of selling out and wondered: ‘is he a fag himself?’ We are now in a position where we simply say what people do in private amongst consenting adults is their affair and their affair only and that the state has no right to either have a window into men’s souls.

Would you reverse civil partnership legislation?
Yes, but that’s not to do with wanting to persecute homosexuals. Marriage is between a man and a woman and rearing their own children is not perfect but it’s the best model and basis for a society. So therefore, the civil partnership between a faithful stable and gay couple just as a civil partnership perhaps between two elderly sisters in terms of inheritance and so on, they have to be, regrettably be collateral damage, because you have to put the family above everything in order to say: this is what our society aspires to. Marriage is only between a man and a women and ideally with kids.

But a civil partnership isn’t a marriage.
I know it’s not but it’s part of the left’s war against marriage and the family. I find it hard to grasp people who are essential conservative with a small c who can’t get the point that most of what’s been done to our society been deliberately done by a hard core Marxist left who have infiltrated their ideas into all aspects of our society.

I accept that could be the case with some things but to normal people who just think stable relationships, whatever kind they are, are a good thing for society…
I agree it’s better if two gay men are in a stable relationship rather than cottaging all over the place.

Further evidence, if any was needed, that Griffin is a bigot, an idiot, and a nutter.

Israel: ‘Noone likes us – we don’t care’?

March 23, 2010

Israel’s diplomacy these days is intriguing.

No serious sanctions are being taken against Israel by the UK and US for its (almost certain) involvement in assassination and for the building of more Jewish settlements in the disputed territory of East Jerusalem, but the governments of key allies are clearly miffed by Israeli actions.

Miliband’s expulsion of the Israeli diplomat today led to right-wing nutters in the Israeli Knesset condemning him as antisemitic. Hopefully Mr Miliband, who lost Jewish family members in the Holocaust, doesn’t take these predictably obnoxious rantings too seriously.

I wondered what British pro-Israeli blogs made of the situation. My favourite, Harry’s Place, doesn’t have anything on it (yet). Melanie Phillips at the Spectator has a wonderfully mad post (as expected) that decries the UK and US for “grovelling to the enemies of civilisation” and “lynching Israel”. Cuckoo.

Also quite amusingly, the scarily-philosemitic Chas has declared that “We’re all Mossad now”. He hosts a guest post where the author recommends visiting Israel.

Well, I would like to at some point in the future, but I’m now quite concerned that the Israeli secret services will perpetrate ID fraud and I’ll wake up one day to find out that I’ve apparently been involved in a strangling a Hamas commander with dental floss (or something).

All critical friends of Israel (as best friends must be) are surely worried by the actions of the Israeli Government.

Watching tonight’s Dispatches.

March 22, 2010

I’m not one to advocate physical violence against Byers, Hewitt, Hoon, Moran and others…


Ex-ministers in cash for influence row – what’s the fuss about?

March 21, 2010

So the great New Labour stalwarts Stephen Byers and Patricia Hewitt have been caught offering to influence Government policy in exchange for cash.

Seems to me that they were simply demonstrating their commitment to Britain’s entrepreneurial culture and their dedication to the principle of expanding market forces in the public sector.

After all, we should be intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich. Byers and Hewitt are so relaxed about it that they’re willing to themselves get filthy rich for the cause.

But sadly however successful Byers and Hewitt are in their efforts to contribute to the UK’s economic growth through (personal) wealth creation, the Parliamentary Labour Party will be a poorer place after the election when both of them will move on to pastures new.

Ed’s radical manifesto.

March 20, 2010

After a hard day’s work out on the doorsteps, it was good to come back and read today’s Guardian report outlining Ed Miliband’s promise of a “radical manifesto”.

Of course it’s never going to be as radical as your average Labour activist would want, but I was pleased to see that the younger Miliband brother’s was not talking about something dull like a ‘radical’ reform of choice in public service provision, for example.

Instead he’s hinting at boosts in the minimum wage, looking at expanding free school meals, and thinking about setting up a People’s Bank. I’d welcome these policies as they’d play well on the doorstep in my parts.

Ed Miliband has been asking for Labour types to email him with views on what should go into the manifesto. Whilst I would point out that party policy should ideally be decided through a democratic process, I’d be happy to drop him an email expressing support for these suggestions.

The other thing I’d like to see would be a firm committment to reducing inequality of wealth. Maybe I’ll mention that to Ed and see what happens.

We need to show that Labour hasn’t run out of ideas and that there are clear differences between us and the other parties. If Ed Miliband is to be believed, Labour’s manifesto may well be fit for purpose.

Widening the Tory Party’s Old Etonian talent pool.

March 19, 2010

I was reading about the Conservative candidate for the safe seat of Penrith and the Border the other day.

I appreciate that it’s an old story now, but it still makes me chuckle that the first post-expenses scandal Tory selection – which was meant to prove that the party was allowing people from outside mainstream politics to win nominations and widen the parliamentary talent pool – resulted in Rory Stewart becoming the Conservative PPC.

How the Old Etonian, Oxford-educated, former tutor to Princes William and Harry and Foreign Office civil servant qualifies as outside the mainstream is hard to tell, though I’m sure he is a talented chap.