Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Politics: soccer of the US

The Democratic Rally yesterday was fantastic. I cannot vote as an alien, am unsure of who to vote for and felt ostracised politically by some of the wares on offer by the Democrats but couldn't help having a tingle of excitement down my spine throughout the event. The razmattaz, the banter in the crowd, the music before the main team came out and the slight confusion at who was kicking off proceedings, because we couldn't quite see, all reminded me of the football matches I love so much in the UK. There was chanting in the crowd, I could put my rabble-rousing skills to the test and was teaching new, slightly more boisterous chants to the Americans. There was that sense of being part of something which I have only ever got in a football crowd and there was that sense of a desire to lose control as a result of apposite attack. The way America seems to treat politics is the same way it treats sport. Politics seems like a fifth main sport, and I think that says a lot about a very sincere and earnest nation whose people are genuinely, on the whole, surprisingly optimistic people.

Amongst the Americans I have met there is not the same cyncism about politicians and a political "class"; even though to be President you probably need to have become a multi-millionaire and even though they are all rampantly critical of either the President or his challenger (or, on this occasion both!). Many may call this naivity or call it a fake veneer, but I think it is a positive, constructive characteristic which we could do with much more in Britain. Please, let's not sacrifice our uniquely forensic debate (I thought we were losing it, but having been here for two months I realise we've got a long way to go...), let's not descend to pure personality politics, but if we held out much more hope and pursued a constructive approach more along the American way Britain would be a happier and more respectful place with a much healthier political landscape.

Oh, to be able to host a rally like this for Party leaders during a General Election. My only concern with it, as I relayed to the Americans I met yesterday, is that I could almost be certain nobody would turn up! There is much we can learn from the US in Britain, without turning politics into a sport you watch briefly like any other, to bring politics back to ordinary people and to talk to those who are interested in politics but not political parties and to talk to those who feel disenfranchised from it and would probably never otherwise vote. A little of the optimism and energy of the US would go a long way.

Hain's pain

I think it is a bad step for the hunting lobby to begin descending to the level of the SWP and ANL in their tactics. They should be above it and I think it can only harm their position as people begin to see them as an unruly pain, rather than a hard-done-by minority. Nonetheless, the news that Peter Hain may be trapped in his house by a protest and would, therefore, be unable to travel to the Labour Conference does strike me somewhat as a case of just desserts. After his own part in dubious protests in the past, and particularly after he was trying to do the same thing to the Cambridge Union during involvement in a violent protest when I was momentarily 'hemmed in' inside, I have no doubt what his views on such dubious tactics are now!

Friday, September 24, 2004


Apologies for my slow blogging of late: as you can see from the photos below it's been a busy couple of days. Met John Edwards, the Democrat Vice-Presidential candidate, personally and then today went to the Democratic Rally right outside the Law School here at Penn. I had a fabulous time and shall blog fully on it once I've come down from the carnal high to which it elevated on two issues: firstly, what impact such events should have on British campaigning and, secondly, what I think about the politics. For now just enjoy the photos. More are available over at my other blog.

Meeting the Presidential candidate in the Law School Posted by Hello

In action Posted by Hello

As close to Kerry as I thought possible (he IS on there...) Posted by Hello

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I've normally enjoyed watching the LibDem Conference but this year I have detected a certain malice in the speeches which can only be explained by the faintest whiff of power. In particular I was irritated by Lord Razzall:

Lib Dem campaigns chief Lord Razzall predicted his party would form the next non-Labour government, adding: "The Tories are finished."

This may or may not be true but if people believe the LibDem propoganda then it's more likely to. Preceding this was a pretty poor attack on the Tories for 'flip-flopping' (the most hateful news phrase to emerge in the last few years...) and at the same time engaging in a pretty shameful misrepresentation of policies to 'back this up', the peak of which was an accusation that the Party would allow banks to charge bank rates to students who took loans: which is not the policy at all!

Monday, September 20, 2004

I'm going to have to update my blogroll!

Finally a gilded streak of light has broken through the grey cloud that was Tory involvement on the internet: finally, we have a blogger who is a Conservative MP. To maintain the suspense you'll have to click on this link to see who it is though.

It shall be interesting to see how he gets on, but I am sure we'll have interesting, witty and vacuous-but-entertainingly-written pieces in equal measure to brighten up our day. At last I have some faith the Party may be able to reclimb the hill towards being called a genuinely modern-day Party!

Thank you First Tory MP Blogger!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Missing the point over Commons security

I can understand there is, correctly, great concern (especially amongst MPs) over the recent security breaches at the Palace of Westminster. On every occasion it is terrifying to think what could have happened if the intruder/thrower had had genuinely evil intent. Nevertheless I do think Peter Hain is using it to take a sideswipe at something he doesn't like when he says Commons security is 'out-dated and antiquated'. The point is it's just not good enough, not its age, or what its organisers wear! There've been no breaches of security since the 17th century like this so the system obviously works and it's not even as if the recent breaches have been very hi-tech or involved new technology: it's just been people talking their way in. This sort of sloppy language really irks me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A dyslexic went to a toga party dressed as a goat...

This is political correctness 'gone mad', and is one instance where Government can do something to haul it in. It may not be a big issue, and I still have my reservations about Michael Howard raising it as an issue a few weeks ago, but this sort of thing does annoy many decent people.

Tories tackling inner cities.

Here's a policy for the Tories: I strongly believe the Party has to strive to help the inner cities, and the only way to do that is through specific policies. So here's one...

With the rising desire amongst many parents for their children to be privately educated, why not allow families who are paying for private schools, and who have their only residence within a certain area, to opt out of a small fraction of municipal taxes, or most importantly a local income tax, to act as an incentive to families to move into the area. The key for the success of Britain's cities is to educate and attract high human capital individuals who can then in turn put more back into the municipal system as well as attracting yet more human capital.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Isn't it ironic?

The irony of Britain's first Ministerial visit to North Korea taking place now...

Friday, September 10, 2004

Fireworks in France

Speedy Sarkozy starts his move for the French Presidency...I quite like the man. He seems to say it how it is but also tries to be liked.

For an aspiring lawyer, all I can say is 'woe is me'!

"Those who collapse under the pressures of the workplace are prone to envision every worst-case scenario, while resilient people think of how a greater workload, for example, might lead to a promotion. In studies, researchers have found that perhaps the only time pessimists thrive is when they become lawyers."

Debating details of debates

I'm currently intrigued by the debate over the Presidential candidate debates for the forthcoming US election. The appearance is that the President is fairly uneasy over the formats proposed by the electoral commission and that the team he has set up to 'debate the debate' with Kerry's parallel team is ready for a hard-bargaining session. You'd have thought, given the tradition of the debate, neither party would wish to rock the boat. I found this interesting nugget though...

"Still, one Republican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the perception that Mr. Bush was ducking the debates did serve a purpose, by helping to lower expectations for Mr. Bush, who exceeded all expectations in his debates with Al Gore in 2000."

What year is it?

What the union seems to have forgotten, of course, is that the administration of these services is the duty of democratically-elected representatives, who are the only ones who have authority to act on behalf of 'the British people'. It is not up to union officials to decide what will be in the interests of the people of the UK or whether they should implement detrimental policies or not. I don't want to seem 'reactionary right-winger' but they will have to be crushed if they do seek to block these developments (which after all have cross-party support).

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Best wishes to Bill for his hospital stay

Have you heard about Bill Clinton's conversation with an old mate who visited him in hospital after his heart by-pass?

Bill Clinton: This hospital's great: it's so specialised and organised!

Old friend: How'd you mean Bill?

Bill Clinton: Well, there's the food nurse, who's in charge of giving you food, the drug nurse, who's in charge of giving you drugs, the wash nurse, who's in charge of giving you washes, and the head nurse, who's...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Should I stay or should I go?

I've not been able to avoid the (dare I call it) furore surrounding the ministerial reshuffle that is trundling towards the UK, and the resignation of the Pensions Minister. I was struck by the irony of his resignation "to spend more time with his family and, from other sources I've read wouldn't be at all surprised if Nick Assinder's analysis weren't fairly close to the truth:

"Indeed, there are even those uncharitable souls who believe Mr Smith's shock move is evidence that the Brown camp are polishing their knives."

Or it could be more masterful politics from the Blair camp, ready to astound us yet again.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Almost unbelievably tragic.

I don't think any other words can begin to suffice to describe what has just happened in Russia. What does irk a little is the drive to look for 'fault' already. Why do we have to cast around for someone to pin our fear at the uncertainty of the world. Of course, the only people who made this happen were the sub-human reprobates who first conceived of taking hostages at all.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

From the body of the strong must come forth sweetness

It is tragic that the capture of twelve Nepalis in Iraq has resulted in their murder. It is, arguably, more tragic that this has lead to great unrest in Kathmandu, the capital. What I find deeply concerning, however, is the statement that the militants said the 12 Nepalis had been killed because they "came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians. Part of me feels that the only response to this is to crush them. If they are going to justify such atrocities in this way then they need to be shown how 'the Jews and Christians' respond to this. I think this is a natural gut reaction. However, I am restrained by the belief that this is only a small, almost insignificant, part of the Moslem population of the world. The most important thing is to ensure we have a coalition of the willing with all moderate sensible Moslems and Moslem nations to crush this aberation, which will otherwise threaten both us and the Moslem world. We must be clear who the enemy is, just as in Northern Ireland we fought not Catholics or Protestants, but deluded murderers.

A living cliche?

So Simon Hughes is elected President of the LibDems. I, as I announced on this blog, would have supported the ebullient Lembit Opik had I been eligible, but I fear that this is a retrogressive step for the LibDems with the ambitious Hughes now Kennedy's 'right-hand man'. I can't see his leadership ambitions leaving him pulling precisely the same way as Kennedy. More to the point I suspect this reveals a lot about the views of the actual members of the LibDems. From a Conservative/Labour perspective this is good news. For politics, in not seeing the promotion of Lembit, it is bad news.

Just perusing the BBC website, my opinion of the opportunistic failed London Mayoral candidate (who famously announced he was the only one who could beat Livingstone: what a laugh!) plummeted even further. The man is a living, walking cliche! Every sentence he comes out with sounds almost David Brent-esque (the manager from BBC comedy The Office). Surely this is an attack the two major parties could deploy very successfully? You heard it here first. Here are just some of them:

  • Taking his cue from the British Olympic teams' success in Athens, Mr Hughes has said he is "going for gold".
  • Modern democracy is no a longer a matter of died-in-the-wool party loyalty, it is a more of an "a la carte" experience, he suggests.
  • "You can eat in the Conservative restaurant, the Labour restaurant or the Liberal Democrat restaurant - but you are not always going to want the same meal.
    "When we are in the restaurant - we can chose things that are Lib Dem or whatever but there are different dishes. You will want different things in the summer from in the winter." What? So the fact the LibDems have done well in only summer by-elections doesn't bode so well for a snap autumn election?
  • "We really are not going to buy into this "big brother" ID card society".
  • "The Tories and Labour are in the Premiership when it comes to resources. We are a First Division Club. One of our jobs will be to identify a list of the sort of people who are likely to support us."
  • "If we are going to be in government we have to be seen as the fashionable, the coming the arriving as the next thing".

Wow. At least he knows the power of the 'soundbite'. Perhaps he should look at the limitations too..

Finally, I'm also not sure he quite meant to let us in on the secret that the LibDems aren't ready for Government but, this...

"I am not saying it will happen but I think, if we do well next year, then we could be ready to be in government for the following election."

...did make me chuckle! Even if we don't have Lembit, at least politics should be a little more entertaining now.