Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Bromsgrove Rovers 3 - 0 Swindon Supermarine

Scewczyk got two more and skipper Pope the other. Great result but apparently it should have been more. We really need another striker and fast if we're to make the play-offs. It's sods law in a way, just as Rooney has almost done enough to get the boot he seems to earn a slight reprieve before we slump back without actually getting it properly together....

Friday, February 27, 2004

Light reading

I have just finished reading 'The Plague' by Albert Camus which is an absolutely barn-storming book and well worth reading if you hadn't. As an allegory for France under Nazi occupation it is a true masterpiece.

The narrator of the story learns from the plague which has stricken the town and shut it off to the world "Simply, what it is that one learns in the midst of such tribulations, namely that there is more in men to admire than despise.

However, he knew that this chronicle could not be a story of definitive victory. It could only be a record of what had to be done and what, no doubt, would have to be done again, against this terror and its indefatigable weapon"

So true, so very true, and beautifully illustrated.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


Read all about the official LibDem policy of:

"Cutting spin so that government is more open and transparent. The number of spin doctors in Whitehall has rocketed over the past few years. There is no need for this, and Liberal Democrats would get rid of [??? INSERT NUMBER] spin doctors, helping to make government more transparent, and paying for X more police/doctors/teachers/nurses."

Who said that LibDemWatch would only ever be puerile!?!

She had to go

....but I don't see how it is that big a deal.

I would like, first of all, to distance myself from Ann Winterton's 'joke'. It was, in fact like her last one, deeply unfunny. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if she'd spent the two years since her last attempt solely trying to think something of such unhilarity up.

She also had to go. Michael Howard reacted promptly and correctly. He should be applauded.

However, it has been summarily described as a 'racist' joke. Now, defending her in no way, I do not think it is 'racist' as such. Tasteless, wrong, ill-timed, ill-thought-out, but is it really racist? Is any joke which mentions an aspect of nationality or race out of bounds and racist? I don't think that when I joke about an Englishman and an Irishman I am being racist. How is race as a characteristic to be joked about any more out of bounds than any other and should it be? This seems to me to be down to an over-reaction in the media. I woke this morning to hear how "this racist joke could be a disaster for Michael Howard and the Conservative Party, couldn't it?" on my radio. This is completely over the top.

As a public figure Ann Winterton did wrong. She should lose the Party whip. Michael Howard has made this happen. That's it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Certified penguin bashing

This was brought to my attention by a regular reader. As he said 'not for the faint-hearted'!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

George Galloway's a loon

This has been doing the rounds but is a classic of its time. I particularly like the 'get involved' section.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I'll eat my hat...

A particularly cynical and unfair attack on Michael Howard's speech by the great failure Roy Hattersley. The big problem is that Hattersley is plain wrong. Even if we want to look for cynical purpose in his visit to Burnley, he did it because he wanted to be seen to be taking on the issues that matter. It was a genuine attempt to show that the Tories are happy and indeed keen to take on the far-right but it was also a chance to show a more constructive positive approach on behalf of the Party. No longer shrill, only-critical and nasty. Unfortunately that is what Mr Hattersley wants and indeed likes...

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Monkey business

George Bush gets it...

Measure achievement not progress: more sense from Stephen Pollard

This article by Stephen Pollard is completely spot-on. Why are we measuring progression and not achievement?

Cinderford Town 1 - 2 Bromsgrove Rovers

It's the result that counts. Scewczyk (again) and Frost scoring. Really should have been more comfortable against the basement side. Nevertheless, there were a couple of results going our way today!

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Dead chickens?

Some mentally stimulating and quite fun analysis of your moral values. Well worth five minutes and great evaluation at the end.

"Selection hitting classroom mix claims IPPR"

My views on this should be fairly obvious! If I thought it was sensible enough to even get off the ground I'd lay out its problems at great length.

Who'd have thought that the results of classes with all successful pupils would have been better than those with fewer...

Oh dear...LibDems wrong again!

I don't want to engage in unnecessary LibDem bashing or for the tone of this site to become boring...but I couldn't resist linking to the latest hilarious example of their campaign websites.

Read the policy carefully....they oppose any extension of the 'Congestion Charge' in London, but 72% of visitors are in favour! Ooops!

The most vile act and bizarre trial ever...yuk!

Read on with care...

Friday, February 20, 2004

Laughable, just laughable.

Yet more fantastic gibberish from 'the stains on the British way of life'.

BNP press frontman Phil Edwards "branded Mr Howard's allegation that the BNP promoted bigotry and hatred as "complete nonsense"".

Yet the branding continued (presumably he favours it as a way of bringing down the crime rate)...he branded the Tory leader an "alien" before adding: "There are too many people of immigrant stock telling us what to do in this country."

Convinced they don't promote bigotry and hatred? Thought not.

Setting sun...

The Sun never fails to stoop yet lower...I picked up on this myself. See Tuesday!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A stain on our British way of life

I entirely agree with Michael Howard. There is much (though there has been much more) pressure in Cambridge to suggest that we should ignore the rise of the BNP and the 'far-right' as to engage them is to credit their views. The Student Union imposed a 'No Platform' policy which was a travesty for free speech. The truth is that their diabolical, albeit limited, success in local elections demands us to turn our attentions into showing them up for the detritus of society that they really are. If you have a stain you do not and cannot ignore it. You scrub it out of existence. First we have to convince everyone in this country that the BNP and National Front are the obnoxious stain on our country that they truly are. Bravo Michael Howard!


And bravo Stephen Pollard. One of the most sensible articles on asylum and this issue that I have read in a long, long time.


Having re-read Stephen Pollard's article in detail (which I was remiss in not doing before) I do still agree with the main thrust of what he says but would like to distance myself from one aspect.

"We must be explicit that productive immigrants are good, and that unproductive immigrants are bad."

Unproductive migrants are not necessarily bad. There is a need for us to offer genuine asylum. With regards to pure economic migrants I would never say that they are 'bad'. We should, however, focus on the positive aspects of many immigrants and try to maximise these. There is a danger that an advance of this argument will be used as a refinement of a discredited 'all immigrants are scroungers' argument. What I most agreed with was Stephen's demand for a sensible debate which didn't descend to racial slurs...

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Intellectual huffing and puffing

With work beckoning and a law conference to prepare for in March today's post will be frugal.

In fact I shall not write anything else, leaving the last word to Ruth Kelly, Treasury Minister: their negativity, stupidity and lack of sense really sums up the government's pathetic response to yesterday's announcement.

"Despite promising year-on-year tax cuts regardless of the needs of public services or the needs of the economy, despite risking a return to boom and bust, the Tories are not promising tax cuts."

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Final fragmentation of secondary education... RIP the gold standard

I am deeply concerned by these proposals for secondary education. There are some developments to be welcomed but I do not see why the GCSE and A-Level system needs to be subsumed within some overarching certificate. It seems to me that it will be nigh on impossible to meaningfully determine between students on the basis of this certificate and that the path through them will be so vague as to render much comparison fairly pointless.

"There would be recognition for wider activities like community service, Duke of Edinburgh awards and even sport."

Why should academic prowess not be measured in a separate and distinct way, but not necessarily more valued, than sport? Why mix the two together? They are different but should be equally respected. It should not be for the Government to step in and to tell potential employers that for them to consider whether someone took an academic/vocational/sporting route is not a decision for them to make.

Another grave concern I have is that the need for externally marked exams will soon disappear, so that teachers mark all exam papers and work out 'credits' for the diploma. All hope of standards and standardisation will finally be extinguished.

Here is the Trust People simplified six-point guide to success:
-Scrap AS Levels
-Make A Levels and GCSE more demanding again. If they do not ensure that students getting good grades have the requisite basic skills introduce a skills paper instead of coursework as one paper.
-Make vocational qualifications less fragmented. Bring in a single recognisable qualification which can be achieved in different subjects.
-Introduce a vocational gap year at fourteen to enable young people to learn something of a trade, to learn something of the fabric which makes up society and to have a renewed sense of the worth of their work when they return to school.
-When it comes to marking of exam scripts there should be a minimum percentage who will fall within each grade boundary (set fairly low) and also a substantive mark which candidates would be expected to meet on each paper to achieve each grade. If more than the minimum percentage beat that mark then they would take the higher grade, if less than the minimum percentage beat it then a smaller number of candidates would get the higher grade. This would hopefully knock grade inflation on the head.
-Scrap public exams earlier than GCSE. Let schools help their children develop: if parents and children want a school with exams then schools would be free to set their own internal annual tests.

Not content with this retrogrssive step though we are also seeing genuine and further fragmentation of the exam system. How can employers hope to compare across boundaries? The Union quivers...

The Tories may be too keen to practice 'new politics' to attack this at this stage but I, fortunately, am not! The argument that anything is better than the current system must be treated with the same response as the Government's suggestion that it was somehow being virtuous in abolishing the 'disgraceful' up-front fees for University: it's your fault, mate.

The irony...

Now deer numbers are too high...

I know it's late but...

I couldn't resist linking to this. The Evening Standard, as of now, has the Conservatives on 58% in relation to the question of 'who do you think would best run the public services'. Time to believe?

Monday, February 16, 2004

Cynical? Moi?

This quiz at BBC Online is quite amusing. Semi-relevant given posts below; my result was that I was 'really only a second-rate cynic. Actually you aren't so much cynical as world-weary, and sometimes you have a point. One thing though - laughing at children isn't nice.' Oh dear...

Correctly politically incorrect

I have been waiting a long time for someone to speak out on this topic. It is a matter which has long perplexed me. Personally I have a tendency to make mildly risque jokes and on occasion this has got me into a few tricky situations and I've never been entirely sure where I stand. I'm drifting towards the conclusion that the intentions (and crucially, I think, how obvious those intentions are) of the 'joker' are quite important. If you know that certain people are offended easily or in a certain way then it is the polite and decent thing to steer away from that. I'm not sure that there ought to be a duty on people to assume someone will take offence. I've often thought that that would render most jokes obsolete and could extend, worryingly, towards other types of speech...and the world would be a much sadder place...

Tory tax and spend

Oliver Letwin finally unveiled what has been hinted at for a week in a fantastic bit of politics. The drip-drip effect of policy announcements in the last week has greatly impressed me. Finally the Party is looking like a really serious alternative. Let's keep it up though. And let's not shy away from the real issues - though I have no doubt that Howard & Co. will not.

Today’s spending announcement by has two main components. First, a commitment to increase public spending at a lower rate than Labout, thereby reducing its proportion of GDP from 42 per cent in 2006-07 to around 40 per cent by 2011. Second, a commitment to ‘protect’ spending on health and education, with large increases in these areas, initially above the rate of GDP growth.

It's been met by acceptance as a serious and costed proposal and is well argued. It is vital though that we make it clear that extra spending, in the short-term will only work with radical reform. For here is the real battleground with Labour. I know that Oliver Letwin is sensibly, and correctly, saying that

"The choice at the next election will not be about whether government spending should rise, but about how fast government spending should rise and about how that money is spent"

because he believes that the Conservatives are on the right side of that argument now, and with enough support amongst the country to win if the Party plays its cards right.

Nonetheless the counter of Labour is that "with £2 billion of the NHS budget set to be diverted by the Tories into private health, no one believes that his £18 billion of cuts could be funded without cutting doctors, nurses, hospitals and equipment in the NHS". The crucial ground will be to convince the British public that just spending more will not improve education and the NHS; that the real hindrances are structural and that the Conservatives can deliver real structural reform; that just ploughing more of their money into a leaking bucket will not stop the bucket leaking, but that the Conservatives will not stop them getting the services they need by starving them of money.

Let's wait for those announcements now. After all, the International Monetary Fund and the Downing Street Policy Unit have warned that the huge scale of NHS spending increases means that they may be spent inefficiently. The OECD has reported that NHS productivity has fallen. The NHS improved more quickly between 1991-92 and 1999-00, before the Government’s spending increases began. Change is needed...of Government and the NHS.


From Free Democrat.

'Matthew d'Ancona
If you want to know what's happening in the Conservative Party ask Matthew d'Ancona. This weeks column is as insightful as ever.

Key quotes are about the Michael Howard's Europe speech.

"In truth, there was nothing substantially new in the speech ... But the speech's tone was a radical departure, approaching the EU with relaxed confidence as a house of many mansions, rather than as an innate threat to all that is decent and true (amongst those Mr Howard consulted while preparing the address was the EU Commissioner, Chris Patten)."

And about the forthcoming and highly important Letwin speech.

"The party's high command was furious at last week's story in The Times reporting that the Tories would spend more on health than Labour in their first term in office. The message Mr Letwin wants to get across tomorrow is rather different: namely, that the Tories do want a smaller state - with the proportion of GDP consumed by public spending falling from 42 per cent to 40 per cent over six years - but that some areas of public expenditure may grow as others contract."

The articulation of the tax policy is very important. It will also be a real litmus test as to where the newspapers stand with regards to the Conservative Party. Over Iraq Murdoch is so committed to the war that his papers were backing the government over all stories regardless. Tax is an area where The Sun and The Times ought to be agreeing with Oliver Letwin. It must be hoped that they will do so on Tuesday. '

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Bromsgrove Rovers 3 - 0 Clevedon Town

From what I can garner the new striker, Bellingham, made a big difference in meaning we'd got something up-front: but the second half, once we'd gone three up in half an hour was as bad as anything. It's hard to moan when you've won 3-0 but Rooney just seems to be scraping enough to avoid the sack. And it might be better if he went...

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Doubling up...

Very detailed post by Oliver Kamm about spending plans. I don't agree with everything he says - some I think is overly critical of the LibDems (shock, horror!).

What has struck me though is the futility of raising national level of income tax to 50% though for earners over 100k. Matthew Taylor, Charles Kennedy and Oliver all seem to agree that the LibDem spending commitments are about 3 billion on pensions and university fees, with the residue of the some 4.7 billion collected going to reducing the level of tax collected locally. But if we get a local income tax, as suggested by the LibDems, why do we need to collect this nationally and have central government hand it down? Wouldn't it be better to keep the national rate lower and devolve decisions about tax-collecting powers downwards?

Friday, February 13, 2004

Churchill shows foreign policy the Third Way

This great article from Laban Tall's blog.

Read him. It's very interesting.

"The Opposition is very free-spoken, as are most of us in this country, on the conduct of the German Nazi Government. No one has been more severe in their criticism than the Labour Party or that section of the Liberal Party which I see opposite...
But these criticisms are fiercely resented by the powerful men who have Germany in their hands. So we are to disarm our friends, we are to have no allies, we are to affront powerful nations, and we are to neglect our own defences entirely. That is a miserable and perilous situation."

It's also the situation Simon Jenkins, half of Labour, and the whole of the Lib Dems would like us to be in.

How exciting!

I think that you know when a blog is taking off because you get mentioned elsewhere. Hurrah! As a result thank you to Daniel Rees for being interested by my breast-feeding soliloquy. Please do let me know what's interesting and what's dull amongst what I post...

He's at Oxford at the moment and one thing, which I do intend to post about shortly, is the stark contrast between the apparent level of dislike amongst Oxford students for 'Tabs' from Cambridge and the more apathetic stance of us must be jealousy! ;o)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Watching the LibDems...

This letter was in last week's edition of Varsity, one of the Cambridge student newspapers (and edited by my very recently ex-girlfriend...that's another story though):

"Dear Varsity,

Last Thursday, students at the Cambridge Union voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion proposing that "the Liberal Democrats are the effective opposition". In light of the Hutton Inquiry and the top-up fees vote, the debate could not have come at a better time.

This government continues to disappoint. The gap between rich and poor grows wider; on Higher Education and foundation hospitals their inadequate proposals are at best conservative, at worst Thatcherite; while our civil liberties continue to be undermined by a Home Secretary who insists on pandering to the Daily Mail.

The Conservative opposition, led by the backward-looking and reactionary Michael Howard, is no better. At last week's debate, they offered up Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, a man who is pro-hanging, pro-flogging, pro-firearms, anti-asylum & anti-abortion. He is an exemplar of a party that is intellectually bankcrupt, out of touch and unfit to govern.

At the next general election, David Howarth, a Fellow of Clare College and former leader of Cambridge City Council, will be fighting to unseat Anne Campbell and represent the students of this constituency. In Cambridge, the Liberal Democrats are the effective opposition; the Tories lie in a distant third place. I hope you will all join me in voting Liberal at the next election and in ridding this constituency of one more distinctly disappointing Blairite.

*** ****
Chair, Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats."

I must first mention that I believe the debate mentioned was won by some 'overwhelming' margin not far short of 10: typical 'fact manipulation', the sort of which I am now well used to. But this letter got me thinking again on two counts.

Firstly are the LibDems 'Liberal', as described in this letter, or are they 'Social Democrats' as the leader used to be and as many of their policies seem. I'm not sure that there is any such thing as a Liberal Democrat, and this contradiction between their two wings really needs to be addressed and dealt with. For, I believe, it is this which is the reason for their comparative success of recent years - they have seemed all things to all people - yet will also be their biggest problem once they become a national party. When they begin to become a proper national party, which could well be disturbingly soon, they will be subjected to much more scrutiny at a high-level. They must evince a genuine philosophy (not just harking back to what the 'liberal' academic response 'must be', as they are often wont) which ties things together. I believe then that they will hit problems as this eternal divide opens up.

The second ponderance I've had, relates to this in a way, and it is the extent to which hypocrisy seems to run deep through what they say. I had quite an interesting exchange, below, with Richard about possible opportunism on Kennedy's behalf but this letter really sums it up. The national Party often tries to present an image of a Party which is different, above the petty yah-boo of the other parties. They offer a constructive alternative. 'Honest politics' was Champagne Charlie's phrase at the last election. Yet when it actually comes down to it look how negative they can be. Where is the description of the LibDem alternative in this letter? Where is the sensible demurring from the other Parties' views?

There is none. There is just naked, negative opportunism. Then again that is what I often see from many LibDems. LibDem opportunism is a much greater, all-encompassing political game than any policy on higher education. Some, many whom I know, are decent but misguided 'social democrats' who care about freedoms and rights. The rest of the rat-bag bunch though are just as bad as any other politican. Except they're worse, because they cynically pretend to be different.

[I hope I haven't offended any of my more regular LibDem readers....but they probably know how I feel anyway!!]

Fat chance (or I've long disliked Tim Yeo)

This is an absolute hoot. Sometimes it is possible to ridicule and laugh even at your own Party. This takes the biscuit (no food pun intended!). How can Tim Yeo honestly "point the finger of blame at the Labour Government after Britain's top doctors warned of the grave dangers facing the nation from obesity".

What!?!? So John Prescott has gone around shoving pies into the mouths of overweight young children? Yes the Government could do more to deal with it in schools but ought it not be Tory thinking for people who eat too much fast-food to take some responsibility for the side-effects of this themselves?

Or maybe he means that with such well-endowed Members as Mr Prescott, Ms Short, Mr C Clarke and co the Government are pushing up the obesity figures and that they should slim? Then again people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. What about Miss Widdecombe, Mr Soames, Mr K Clarke and Lord Strathclyde? All political 'heavyweights'! Then again...wasn't Miss Widdecombe on Celebrity Fat Club? That must be what he means - no-one from the Government took part!

LibDem Watch

Having begun amidst a massive row it will be intriguing to see how this site develops. I don't want to seem obsessively interested in the LibDems but the Party does perplex me as a political phenomenon. It seems to me to be more equivocal than Macbeth, yet still they try to maintain a veneer of being above the fray....

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Sutton Coldfield 2 -1 Bromsgrove Rovers

Oh dear...not good enough...

Monday, February 09, 2004

Back in Cambridge now. But only after a most disturbing train journey which, for once, was not made disturbing by the diabolical train system in Britain. No, this time it was a rather innocent-looking young woman. Unfortunately she had a baby. Now I must make myself clear - it wasn't the baby which was the problem. I am sure that the baby needed feeding. I just felt that when the young lady whipped out first one breast for the nipper to feed on, and then another, before reverting to the first nipple for dessert it was slightly distasteful.

Now you may call me a prude. I'd often thought that much of the furore about breast-feeding in public was a little prudish myself and struggled to see quite why some people objected so much. Nonetheless, I tell you now, until a woman (I hesitate to use the term 'lady') has bared her breasts across a narrow table on a train you really shouldn't be too judgemental.

I really did wonder what was happening. More to the point it made me very uncomfortable. I had no idea where to look and am sure that the crick I have subsequently developed in my neck is due to the craning of it as far back as possible and then the continued flitting of it from left-to-right-to-straight-upwards to try to avoid the embarassment of lingering glances at her breasts. I wouldn't have minded so much if she'd asked but I think it is terribly rude just to pull them out as she did.

What if I had unzipped my trousers? Would I have been treated by her in the same way that I treated her? Somehow I doubt it. After the furore over Janet Jackson's (covered) nipple at the Superbowl I can't help but be staggered that people aren't more concerned with things closer to home...

A Prude.

Governments should help people to govern themselves

There is such a thing as society. In fact that is the reason why we have governments. It is a response to the recognition of groups of people that they not only have things in common but that certain goals can be only be achieved by common endeavour than by the isolated uncoordinated efforts of individuals and that sometimes this common endeavour must be enforced. Government is the means by which society achieves this and it is for this reason that government has a monopoly on the morally legitimate use of force – it must.

Over exactly which functions a government has a mandate to exercise this power, for an end which can be better achieved than by individuals or unregulated co-operation is a matter of intense debate. It seems to me, however, that there are two things which, merely to remain a government, a government has to do.

Firstly its people must be secure and safe within its territory: this means that government must have the monopoly on morally legitimate force. Government must provide safety and security for the people it governs to ensure that they can go about their lives freely. Without a strong rule of law the government may as well not exist: it would be powerless to stop dissent and couldn’t truly govern.

Secondly a government’s borders must be secure. Any government must protect the territory it governs, for it cannot be a government without control and protection of its territory. Otherwise another government would step in which could control the territory: like the US!

Other than this a government need not do anything. Its aim, however, should be to improve the condition of those it governs and to act in their interests. Where necessary it should step in where an organised, enforceable approach is needed to improve the lot of the people. No other actions are essential for its existence; as a result it should be seen merely as a facilitator. It should facilitate the best opportunities for all, but need not necessarily provide them itself. It is necessary to debunk the false impression that the state itself must offer a range of ‘essential services’. If these existed in the beginning there would be no need for government, so if they can be provided independently of government they should be.

If members of society can provide something perfectly well without the Government the rationale for its intervention disappears. There is no need for common endeavour to be backed up by force in order to achieve that aim. To formalise common endeavour becomes unnecessary. Government exists to provide a secure environment in which the condition of the people can improve. Where a stimulus is required it should provide it. That is not to say, however, that the government itself has to provide anything. It need merely ensure that the means are available by which members of society can achieve their goals. There is no pre-requisite that this has to be done by government.

Take, by way of an illustration, food. Everyone in the country buys their own food. Private individuals can be trusted to not only produce food without the government having to provide it, but to transport and sell the food to us, to provide us with the equipment we need to prepare the food. There is no need for the government to provide food or the system. Nonetheless government has a key role it can play in enabling members of society to do things themselves. Government needs only to help to facilitate this system, by ensuring we have a problem-free transport system, by ensuring that there is no abuse of weaker parties and that everyone has the resources necessary to access the system. There is no need for a government-run National Food Service, which provides us all our food for free at the point of access protecting this vital commodity for life from abuse by private individuals. Government enables and protects but does not and need not provide itself. As society evolves people will be capable of doing so many more things themselves without a government. Where this is the case, and people can govern arrangements themselves, government should let them.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Bromsgrove Rovers 1 -1 Mangotsfield Utd.

Disappointing. Very disappointing. Bromsgrove just shaded a dour and drab first half that saw them head in 1-0 up at the break after Steve Frost drove home from the edge of the six-yard box just before the break. Mark Benbow had broken well down the wing before allowing the tired-looking Paul Scewczyk to square it in for Frost to strike. Prior to that had been one of the worst half hours of football that I have seen in many years with both sides failing to create and failing to maintain any pressure on the opposition. George Rooney had bizarrely started Marcus Jackson up-front alonsgide Scewczyk: in my humble opinion he is not physicaly strong enough to maintain this role, as was clear when it was tried earlier in the season, and we lack his nippiness out on the flank.

Things were little better in the second helf with both sides lacking any real cutting edge. Paul Wyatt made several uncharacteristically solid stops towards the midway point but both sides huffed and puffed without looking very threatening. Unfortunately Mr Rooney seemed keen to settle back and try to defend in depth, withdrawing Scewczyk for the 5 foot 2 Atkinson leaving us with no height or strength up-front. Mangotsfield scented blood and could have got it. A stream of cock-ups from Wyatt in the Bromsgrove goal gifted Mangotsfield several chances. One clipped the bar before Seal pounced with the goal at his mercy in the 88th minute.

We looked short on ideas, short on character and physically short in attack as we slip to ninth in the league effective relegation is staring us in the face. rooney must go now before it's too late!

Friday, February 06, 2004

There may be a paucity of posts over the weekend - I am popping back to Worcestershire to recuperate for a few days after my tonsillitis attack. Oh for the hills again...

I shall leave you with a poem which, in my opinion, has been indesirably popularised in recent years but which I always think of when I've been to the Union!


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

I hope you enjoyed it. There is too little internet poetry I think!

Last night

Last night I was back at the Cambridge Union for a debate about Ariel Sharon blocking Middle East peace featuring Norman Lamont and Greville Janner, both people I hope I could claim to know at least a little.

They were both very good but I realised, last night, finally, why I have tried to avoid Israel/Palestine debates in the past. I know that they soon become very sectarian, and as a result a little dull for the non-partisan, but I believe that the whole problem in the area is that there is too much debate and argument between the two sides and not enough positive discussion and agreement over what to do next...

Comments back up!!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I seem to be having some trouble with the comments feature...this is disappointing but I am looking into it. Hope to have it back up soon. The downside is that I think we've lost all the comments to date. I'll have to try to provoke some more then!

Back Brian for the Beeb!

This is worth a look: I reckon he's got as much chance as a number of other very well-qualified contenders who just happen not to be 'in' with the establishment!

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Remember that you heard it here first that Blair was going to call an inquiry...

See 'Will Tony stay the odd one out' below from Monday!

Spam: the next generation

Disturbing developments for our inboxes. At least Mr Graham-Cumming is on our side though!

Be brave. So we must reassert just what Conservatism is in 21st century Britain

So Polly Toynbee (surprise, surprise) is pushing for Labour to really be Labour. Her reason for this seems to be a lurch to the left amongst Conservative politicians. She may be right. Labour she says has redefined the political landscape. Well, no-one doubts that after they've been the only party on the electoral map for a decade. Where I would be tempted to disagree with her is that it is necessarily right or that the straw-man she has set up as the Conservative's approach to 'social injustice' is actually the case.

She writes:
"So afterwards I asked him [David Willetts] if the Tories would need to have a poverty target of their own at the next election. Yes, he said; the party would need a target to prove it was just as sincere about social justice. So the long ideological battle has been won: the Tories admit that it does matter how wide the gap is between top and bottom."

Now I agree. The Conservatives do need to talk about social injustice and increasing genuine opportunity for those who currently have little except despair. Too often in the past an increase in opportunity has meant opportunity for merely a few of those who are not well off (and everyone else). This must change. There must be opportunity for all willing to make the effort and invest into our society the skills which they do have and which society demands.

Does merely redistributing wealth to those who don't have it solve anything? Does it solve the processes which have lead to cycles of poverty, decline and despair? No. It is the same solution as that of positive discrimination is to access in universities. It is a left-ist attempt at a solution, a quick-fix attempt at a solution and an inequitable attempt at a solution. And it is an attempt that will solve nothing in the long run; apart from making Britain exceedingly uncompetitive on a global scale at a time when flexibility, ability to adapt to a rapidly changing global market are our most marketable commodities. We cannot view this as an issue in isolation. Our future in contrast to that of countries such as China, India and Pakistan is the issue of tomorrow. We must be ready to meet that challenge. To do that we need to reassert a brand of Conservatism which shows our compassion as well as our desire to be both the best in the world and truly one nation, not two split between haves and have-nots. Let us not throw out the goose that lays the golden egg with the bathwater.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Gloucester City 1 - 0 Bromsgrove Rovers

Oh dear. From what I can tell we started with a 4-5-1 formation with just the brilliant (but tonight lone) Paul Scewczyk up-front. Gloucester scored a penalty after a hand-ball in our box after 50 minutes and that was enough to win it. They had one red card and three yellows to our none (but then they've always been a dirty side...) but apparently wanted it more. We need to finish in the top 8 to make it into what will be called 'the Doc Martens Premier' next season, although effectively it will be at the same level. At the moment I'm not sure the team has got the passion, desire or character to fight for it. That much lack of interest I'm afraid comes to rest with the manager. He made no changes tonight. Even at 1-0 down away from home we played with a lone striker right to the end. Surely George Rooney's time is running short...

UPDATE: I shall have to cheer myself up by looking at the silly Redditch picture mentioned below!

Oh dear, oh dear...

Mr Blair:

-on 25 February: "(Saddam) continues to believe his WMD programme is essential both for internal repression and for external aggression.

"The biological agents we believe Iraq can produce include anthrax, botulinum, toxin, aflatoxin and ricin. All eventually result in excruciatingly painful death."

-on 18 March: "We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years-contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence-Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd."

-on 8 July: "I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes."

Now he appears to accept there might not have been weapons, only "programmes" - a position which he has been working towards for some time - and that the intelligence may have been flawed.

Oh dear.

Mr Bliar:

-in June 2001: " we will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them"

-in January 2004 the Government Higher Education Bill passes its second reading with the aim of legislating for top-up fees.

Oh dear. Would you trust this man?

Who is the opportunist then?

It seems that Mr Kennedy has decided it's ok to jump on bandwagons! He has announced that the LibDems will play no part in the inquiry into the quality and problems with pre-war intelligence on Iraq. He is saying that this is because he wants an inquiry into whether it was right to go to war at all. How can this be though? We can have no meaningful independent inquiry into whether any political decision was right, for the simple reason that politics isn't an issue of independence and impartiality but one of doing what you think is right. The report of this inquiry will surely show whether the intelligence was defective, and why, but it may also show that the intelligence was suitably disclaimered. If we have a thorough report on the nature of the intelligence and the way in which it was used by the Government, which is fairly and squarely within the remit, then it will be open to everyone to make their own judgements about why we went to war and whether the reasons were justified.It is then for us to decide whether we think the Government was right at the time to rely on the intel. There can be no independent, judicial, legal and objective decision as to whether this was right.

Still, it's a nice chance for Mr Kennedy to sling some mud and engage in typical negative politics, the sort he normally condemns...

Sweet hypocrisy from January 7:

" is not surprising – given Michael Howard’s comments at Prime Ministers’ Questions – that the Conservatives have decided to prejudge the conclusions of the inquiry in the same way that they prejudged their unquestioning and uncritical support for the war in Iraq.

Mr Howard seems prepared to approach this serious matter with a closed mind and an open mouth."

Today we need instead of the proposed one, an enquiry which deals with the issues deals with the issue "directly and openly. It does not seem to me that this inquiry will be able to do that."

Who has a closed mind and open mouth now then...?

Monday, February 02, 2004

I haven't stopped laughing at this for thirty minutes...

Today I found this picture on the Redditch United FC website. Now Redditch United are the football team just up the road from Bromsgrove...not, of course, our real rivals, as that can only be Kidderminster Harriers. However, owing to the small matter of three promotions lying between us and Harriers, Redditch are having to make do as a stop-gap derby game.

Anyway this picture of their manager receiving the 'manager of the month award' is a hoot, because although the main stand looks packed, which for Redditch with fairly rubbish crowds even at this level is a first, it's actually empty. Every single person you see appears to have been airbrushed in in the crudest manner imaginable! Classic. Every time you look you see a different new farcical component...

It cheered me out of my tonsillitis immeasurably!

Will Tony stay the odd one out?

Harry's Place is, I think justifiably, indignant about the prospect of Bush calling an independent inquiry into intelligence in the run-up to war with Iraq.

"Just what Blair wanted from his 'ally' at the end of the week like this one: US to probe pre-war intelligence

Who'd be a New Labour spin doctor? Try arguing against the need for an inquiry in Britain when even the evil one is going all open government.

The only respectable line I can think of us: "What, you want another whitewash?"

PS: How does one go about calling for an independent inquiry by the way? I'd love to get some Lord putting all Stop the War's financial documents and internal emails online for public consumption."

Odds of the Bush-Blair friendship being sacrificed on the high altar of re-election? I am increasingly suspicious that the inquiry will blame British intel sources...Oh well at least Tony can blame them then too!

I do suspect that we will hear him call for one soon, with the line that they'd never ruled it out anyway and had been considering it but that they were waiting for facts from Iraq. We've had a cooling of the line already. At least Michael Howard can claim one victory from the whole debacle then! In my humble opinion he has engineered Hutton off the headlines and intelligence on weapons of mass destruction on quite cunningly.

UPDATE: 4/2/04 - I shan't say I told you so, but....

Hope for a diverse and equally respectful system?

David Willetts has announced that the Tories are worried about the "lost generation" of young people and about youth unemployment rates. This is a massive issue and one which rightly needs addressing. I just hope that this announcement shows genuine intent for the Conservative Party to develop policies and approaches on this and is more than a mere platitude. What we need is more respect in this country: for its institutions and for the achievements of other members of society. A key starting point for this is strong, rigorous and diverse vocational training which is fundamentally different from and yet equally respectable as more academic education and qualifications. Grammar schools and alternatives with a twist....?!

Sunday, February 01, 2004

More captive than before

'When Greg Dyke first met the young Tony Blair many years ago, he groaned, inimitably: "Not another
f—ing Labour barrister." How prescient that first impression has proved to be, in the light of Mr Dyke's downfall last week. For if one thing is clear about Lord Hutton from his report into the death of Dr David Kelly, it is that his dislike for the media is matched only by his fondness for lawyers.'

For now, Mr Brown is persuaded of the virtues of orderly succession. For now, therefore, Mr Blair is safe. But how long can the Chancellor's patience hold? The answer to that question is probably different every day: visceral ambition vies constantly with political caution in Mr Brown's soul.

The duumvirate that has governed New Labour for a decade is just about stable, but its tensions are far from being resolved. Let us be in no doubt: last week belonged to the Prime Minister. The great escapologist has wriggled out again. But - in the most important sense of all - he is no less a captive than he was seven days ago.

Prescient Portillo?

What are the odds on Mr Portillo jumping from the frying pan into the fire and becoming new Chairman off the BBC? Heaven forbid... Then again, I'm tempted by the idea that it'll be him or David Owen...

It's getting embarrassing...

I was initially sympathetic for Mr Dyke, but his current whinings are wearing a bit thin now. Perhaps he should have mentioned some of these gripes to Lord Hutton methinks...

Ilkeston v Bromsgrove Postponed