Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Sour grapes and a fine whine

So England got pipped to the post with some dreadful kicking in a thrilling match of rugby, and Rovers were pipped in the 89th minute by Lancaster City, several leagues above. Nevertheless, I'm taking these defeats on the chin. It's cheering to see the left have no such honour with the result of the US elections. This article by Michael Meecher, and the associated impacts of the Bush victory, made me chuckle, and more than atoned for these defeats!

It's my birthday... I'm off to do my first proper bit of ex-patting by watching England beat Australia at ruigby in the Black Horse ;o)

Let's hope it's a good omen for Bromsgrove Rovers travelling to Lancaster later today in the FA Trophy!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Here's a blast from back home

I've always been slightly annoyed by the not-very-Liberal Democrats representation of themselves to be an honest and positive party above the political fray of their two larger cousins. There is another example from my home constituency, West Worcestershire here on their brand new website. Having conducted an apparently pointless poll of people living in nearby Pershore they have released their results - and it transpires the questions were all totally negative and misleading!

"When asked about Sir Michael's support for the Fairer Funding for Schools campaign, 74% of those who replied said the MP is not doing enough. Similarly, 84% said he could have done more to safeguard the future Community Hospital."

What on earth is the productive point of asking people whether they think the MP has done enough? Perhaps Tom Wells would have been better off actually doing something? Perhaps he could put his mind to the question of what more he would have done, because in this petty personal attack there's certainly no positive contribution? Michael Spicer is involved with the Fairer Funding for Schools campaign; what more does Tom Wells want him to do?

Unfortunately, until I hear that then it will be very hard to take Mr Wells or the not-very-Lib Dems seriously.

Perhaps he should spend more time focussing on his own job, as leader of Malvern Hills District Council, and look at seeing whether he "could've done more" about the hospital supposed to be built in Malvern which his own council could have pushed for much more.

Evidence in support of my Queen's speech approach

Margaret Hodge defending a 'nanny state'.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Pragmatic blasphemy about taxation

I am musing about the advantages of a flat-rate of income tax....expect a post soon!

For the moment, read some more here.

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm just heading out to give thanks for all the many fortunate things that have happened to me in the last year, to the people that helped make them happen, and for those who have helped me be such a lucky young man.

Belated musings on the Queen's Speech

Well, there has been much said about the Queen's Speech made earlier in the week. I think I have to agree with all the pundits and critics who say that it is the opening salvo in the General Election campaign, and from that point of view it's terribly interesting.

For me it raises the fundamental question of what New Labour is and how the Tories can fight them and win. That, after all, is the only real reason for the dire position the Conservative Party is now in. Having lost all the arguments in the 80s and 90s, Labour's response was largely simple, from a strategic point of view, to begin with. It needed to adapt to the new political environment by 'out-Torying' the Tories. It needed to take symbolic steps to further a public perception of the Labour party as one which could manage a broadly capitalistic economy. That it did, and successfully, albeit aided by such unfortunate occurences as Black Wednesday, evoked, I believe, even this week in a Labour Party television broadcast.

They have subsequently defined themselves largely negatively. They are everything the Tories would be, but not the Tories. They don't really want to raise taxes, but they like schools'nhospitals. The Queen's Speech just represents the next stage of this process. A masterly attempt to be tough on crime and appear to be ensuring an orderly society, again camping out deep in Conservative territory. The challenge for the Conservatives is to work out how to beat them, and that is a very complex question. At the moment they are shut out of the game, by a strategically super-skillful Labour.

One answer could be, that aside from a puerile lust for party politics there is no need to replace them. They are doing the job the Tories would do otherwise. Is this true though? I hope it's not, and don't believe it is. On all the big issues they seem to be easily tagged as 'Tory' but on many other smaller, less obvious issues, there is the same stamp of the left which Tories are so opposed to. The social engineering proposed in universities, little bans here and there, burdening business with micro-management 'in the interests of the country, deconstruction of our national framework and incremental stealth taxes are all distinctly disturbing issues and represent a greater swathe of management about which it is right to be dissatisfied. Each on their own is hardly fashionable and isn't going to win an election.

So it could be that a brand new strategy is needed. Or it could be that even more 'Conservative' policies will attract people by the choice. I have little truck with this, as people aren't attracted by shocks and because Labour has put up its tent where it has for good reason. Or it could be that nothing can be done, until the negatives of Labour's mistakes begin to hit home with people, apart from organising and trying to appear constructive and electable (easier said than done with the party political-based pressure to find the 'solution'). I suspect it is a mixture of these. I also suspect that, unwittingly, the Queen's Speech and the forthcoming election battle could provide an option for such a new solution though.

There is an inherent conflict at the heart of Conservatism, between the desire for freedom and liberty and the desire to create an ordered society. This is summed up, and indeed threatened, by the 'war on terror' and Blair's proposals. For me, it represents the ideal opportunity to set up shop on Blair's land; to allow the public to see the Tories counter-intuitively and to provide a genuine choice for Labour. It would require clever politics to say to Britain that you can provide security and increased safety from terrorist attacks without removing serious liberties, but it could be just the sort of clever politics which is needed, shutting out the LibDems too. That, indeed, removing these liberties probably won't make people any safer, and probably isn't necessary. That the Tories had no need for ID cards when they were fighting home-grown terror from the IRA. That, far from friends with Bush, which Howard clearly isn't, you don't need to be a US poodle to deal with the US and to fight terror. That there is a clear choice here. That the practical, thoughtful approach which many in the UK judged so approvingly in Kerry, who also supported the war, can be applied in Britain too. In so doing the Conservative Party could do to Blair, what Blair did to the Tories. Whether it's a poll winner, I am sceptical. It would certainly give the Tories some narrative and some clear blue water come election time.
After all, fairly uninformed about domestic US issues, it seems clear that it was Kerry's approach to foreign affairs and the war on terror which won the minds of many in the UK. The only alternative is to continue criticising Blair for being Blair, but that's not going to get supporters back to loving the Tories. Pragmatically liberal gives them an identity without betraying their roots a la Blair.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Prince Charles is even more right...

"I believe passionately that everyone has a particular God-given ability.
"Often all that is needed is the right help at the right time for them to make the most of it.
"In my view it is just as great an achievement to be a plumber or a bricklayer as it is to be a lawyer or a doctor.
"Not everyone has the same talents or abilities, but everyone, with the right nurturing, can make a real difference to their communities and to the country."

Friday, November 19, 2004

I never thought I'd agree with the Guardian, but...

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with the Grauniad, but I think their assessment of the way forward for the Tories is spot-on. Part of it, of course, is driven by a desire to destroy the right, but to adapt in the way they set out need not entail abandonment of principle. It is just a way of justifying them so that when opponents say 'you're nasty irrelevancies' we have a winning response.

"...[T]he Tories must face up to issues they have too often avoided. The Conservative party desperately needs to reinvent a moderate and inclusive one-nation conservatism that can appeal to the generations of voters whom Mr Blair has captured from it since 1994. To do that, it needs to face down much more of the doctrinaire and ideological Tory politics of the last dozen years, especially on Europe and social issues. The Tories need to take on and defeat their own extremists, the Eurosceptics above all, to win the kind of cathartic internal party battles that Neil Kinnock and Mr Blair fought and won in the Labour party over a decade and more. The Tory party may not win in 2005, but if it wants to be in a position to thrive again in the post-Blair era, it cannot simply wait on events. It must start to shape them, too. "

It's not an easy path, and it's one which requires skillful and subtle politicians to make clear what Tory values are and how they will work. At the moment there aren't those people on the benches. Their best bet is to hope enough of the good candidates in marginal seats get in.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Government tells me I'm out of date

Charles Clarke says I'm "out of date", apparently, because I believe that the current education system tries to promote a "child-centred system which admits no failure" and tells people they can achieve greatness without "putting in the necessary effort or having the natural abilities".

Prince Charles was spot on with his comments. All children can't win prizes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

And a great article on

the logic or lack thereof behind the ban on smoking in pubs, at non-trivial solutions...

Do bandaids help a broken limb?

So we have another Band Aid - Band Aid 20 - to re-re-release "Do They Know It's Christmas (Feed the World)". And I'm going to be ever so slightly controversial and question the effectiveness of such a stunt. It's great that something's being done to help the children and people of Sudan and indeed much of Africa. More work is needed. I do have to question whether this is actually the way to do it or whether it is counter-productive, though.

First off, is the money raised from the record actually going to make a significant difference? I don't know exactly how much they got last time, but this is just one record. Still, all money must be worthwhile.

My criticisms come in when I start to feel that it can be used as a smokescreen. I wonder how many people won't donate as much to existing charities, which work for people such as those suffering in Sudan all year, every year? The whole concept is entirely temporary and can risk putting the good work done by many other more permanent charitable organisations into the shade.

I suspect it also gives people the misguided impression that they have 'dealt with the problem'. They will have bought the latest faddish record rather than 'The Cheeky Girls' from two years ago, but the problem in Darfur is ongoing and needs more ongoing attention than a one-off injection of a moderate amount of money (although that will undoubtedly help). What is more, the general problems of Africa upon which Band Aid was founded need a more lasting structural approach than a similar injection of cash. Is it not just a cosmetic spectacle, helping the image of many millionaire popstars and detracting from the real political problems causing such poverty and desperation?

I don't want to sound like a scrooge, a miser, a selfish spoil-sport or a deeply horrible person. I just question whether a partial quick fix being presented as saving the world is entirely accurate or productive.

This whole discussions was provoked by my reading about Will Young, winner of Pop Idol (I think...) who said

"Get out there, buy the single, buy two copies ... People have to be less selfish and start thinking about others. I feel very passionate about it. Since Sunday, it's really gripped me."

Maybe I am being wrong-headed and irrational. Maybe I just resent being lectured about selfishness by someone who has made millions from a highly-commercialised television show and whose contribution to the problem is giving his voice to a record for 10 seconds. I wonder how many Will will be buying?

I do think he has summed up my fears though: he's been gripped since Sunday and won't stay gripped for long. It all boils down to whether you think limited exposure is good. Is a bandaid for a broken leg better than nothing?


I'm delighted to find I'm not the only one thinking this, from comments emails and also Samizdata. There they make a very good point about the risk of just empowering even more bloodthirsty groups. I'm also chuffed to have beaten Samizdata to a story!!

Is it any wonder why people are cynical about politicians

I am staggered that the Guardian will publish tripe like this. Of course the public are going to have no respect for politicians and therefore feel disengaged from the political process if we hear such vicious twaddle as this:

"The Tory party will put up with all kinds of chancers and downright liars without a squeak. You pretty much have to be put in prison before you'll fall foul of Conservative integrity, and yet you can't survive the one scandal that has the least to do with your suitability as a politician."

I'm no defamation lawyer but that's got to be very close to the law, and is just not true. I should expect such pap from the Grauniad but was honestly shocked at this. I know politicians have done a lot to lead to current common perceptions, but I really think it has gone too far, now they are just an easy target for a press which is even worse.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Edwina has egg on her face

I don't know why this whole affair (and not Boris Johnson sleeping around)! has irked me so much. I suspect because the raptors of the press are blowing it out of all proportion. What one earth is Edwina Currie doing though, talking about private lives not being any of the public's business?! Apart from the fact she seems to want to take a machete to the Tory Party, can she not see the stark hypocrisy of coming out with this after she writes a book deliberately pandering to the public's desire for salacious gossip by describing her relationship with John Major? He clearly didn't want it to be public? She helped further such morbid fascination in other's lives? Why won't she practice what she preached?

Ah, yes. There's a lot of money in it. And so much of politics now is just a game, of playing parts and getting on the right side of the press, whose minds are very hard to change...

Are these my people?

It's times like this that I really do wonder whether the Tory Party can continue to appeal to me. We have Nicholas Soames, just one of a number of members of the shadow cabinet who seem more concerned about lunch than government, declining to back his leader's sacking of someone who lied to him, on the grounds that he's a 'brilliant man'.

The inflated sense of self-importance which has exuded from this whole incident makes me slightly sick. Politicians are not - or at least should not - be there as some sort of self-promotion technique to propel them further into celebrity. They are there to do a job and, however much we may like them, if they show themselves to have characteristics undesirable in that job they should go.

Now I am not one who believes image is more important than substance, but at a time like this, when for some slightly incomprehensible reason the Party and country are divided, if the only people who can be wheeled out for either 'side' are Michael 'Toff' Ancram, Theresa 'Shoes' May and Nicholas 'Fatty' Soames then I will struggle to identify with the Party. It's a dark day not because the worthy leader made a wrong decision, but because it casts a spotlight right to the heart of what those in the upper echelons of the Party are about.

Those who battle on with their job incompetently but inoffensively.

Those who are there as part of a social club, who lunch and dine and defend together.

Those who struggle to hold it all together for political gain.

And at the same time the most deceitful, disingenuous and social-engineering Government in history carries on its ultimately socialistic task undaunted.

I am several thousand miles away, and the navel-gazers wouldn't listen to reason anyway.

How thoroughly depressing.

Not sacked for what happened in the sack

For those of you not UK readers, Boris Johnson was the Conservatives' Arts spokesman and is editor of right-wing magazine the Spectator. A real character he hams up being a bumbling upper-class old Etonian and has sparks of brilliant humour.

He has, however, made a gigantic misjudgement and been sacked from his front-bench position in the House of Commons. What is frustrating is the inability of much of the media and, it seems public, to understand that this has nothing to with the affair he appears to have had with writer Petronella Wyatt and whatever ramifications there were from it. It has simply to do with the fact that he described the stories last week as 'an inverted pyramid of piffle' before they turned out this week to be true, in the process lying to Michael Howard, the leader of the Opposition. Serious politicians cannot lie to the public or their leader and expect to be kept on, whoever they are.

However, the majority of people commenting on the BBC website seem to be unable to comprehend this. They seem outraged that the Conservatives are 'poking around in peoples' bedrooms'. Even the respectable Militant Moderate (who I'm sorry to flame because he commented to me earlier in the week about how pally this blogging business seemed...) seems to have jumped aboard.

Of course it's nobody's business what Johnson does in his private life. It is our business if he lies to his leader and lies in the press though. Nobody doing that can stay on, no matter how popular, amusing, refreshingly different or skilfull someone is. It is too easy to take a cheapshot at the Tories over this for doing the only thing they could. If the party was vindictive of people having affairs John Redwood wouldn't have been welcomed back into the fold less than a year after leaving his wife for his mistress.

I don't see why this is an issue for questioning the Conservatives at all, apart from Tory-bashing being a nice easy topic for the left-leaning media to dredge up again and painting them irrationally as the 'nasty party' being something they can't avoid.

He lied. He got sacked.

That's the wrap.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

What a load of Bloks...

Militant moderate has a very thoughtful piece about the judgement rendering the Vlaams Blok illegal in Belgium, as does Stephen Pollard. This really is outrageous, no matter how unbelievably offensive a political party is to the vast majority of the population. It makes a total mockery of the 'democratic' system and really is on the same spectrum as the 'elections' in communist states. I won't go on too much, as my views on free speech* are fairly oft repeated and well known, and also because Militant Moderate has a far better discussion than I could replicate without repetition.

*The content of the speech should be irrelevant. The right to free speech and expression of your personal views should be fairly absolute except where it becomes defamatory. The way to beat and deal with people with despicably extreme views is to expose them to sensible opinions and arguments, insulation from which has probably lead to the gestation of such an offensive mindset in the first place. That way you also restrict their impact.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Blogroll updated

I've updated my blogroll to take off a few non-topical sites and to add in Militant Moderate, by an Oxford undergraduate (someone has to be) which is a thoughtful blog, well worth a read, and also, Boris Johnson (who used to be an Oxford undergraduate - someone had to be!).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Interesting Times opinion poll

A 50% larger sampling size in this Populus poll (jitters after the US election?!) and the Tories are 1% behind Labour: 34-33-22(Libs). There are still undecideds though and this is hardly victory by a long-shot; they're still behind. As I have said, it will be a long, weary trail back, but they've found the right one. Stories like this can only help.

Is this Conservatism (capital C)?

Stands in opposition to what members see as more 'faddish' utopian visions, preferring to conserve the spontaneous/organic development of society.

Strong belief in the rule of law and the importance of families as the building block for society and raising children.

Belief in a strong and united Britain.

Belief in the importance of continuity.

Minimum state interference, to keep people unshackled, but a basic safety net is needed for those who cannot help themselves. Vehicle for the promotion of individuals' freedoms.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bleeding hearts of the bleeding hearts

This article, full of sneering left-liberalism is why I found it so difficult to swing behind John Kerry. Every time I felt I was going his way I couldn't help but hear his proposed responses to criticism of Bush, glance to either side, hear how they were talking, and feel distinctly uneasy. It's tough not to feel some pleasure that they've been beaten by such an 'ignorant chimp'.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

How the race was won.

"I'm ready for Bush to win again. Even if Kerry was perfect, when change occurs, problems happen. ... I'm not saying I love Bush. I just think he's better than Kerry. I'm voting for four more years."

President Bush.

Kerry throws it away.

To Bush or not to Bush, the question of the election

After a hard day in the field, which I'll blog full details of very soon, it's looking like it's boiling down to Ohio. And people are still lined up to vote there! So despite polls having officially closed the result of the election is still to be determined. With the way other states have gone you can't help but feel things are falling Bush's way. All the exit polls in Ohio, supposedly more accurate than normal polls which exclude mobile/cell phones, showed Kerry as winner though. Or it could end up in the Ohio Supreme Court. It's slowly unfolding and it's all down to Ohio...No Republican has ever taken the White House without Ohio.

Larry King on CNN, when asked why he thought Nader was standing again and hadn't done as well, referring to the fact he had a stroke a few years ago!

Some woman with short hair being led onto the screen on Fox to repeat what the presenter had read off the screens.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Just back from a fantastic week in Vegas, somewhat ironically given the current row over loosening gambling laws in the UK. As well as getting a tremendous helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon (pictures to follow), Vegas wasn't such a disgusting den of iniquity and vice as some of the British Press would have you believe. In fact it was pretty good and (for me!) inexpensive fun.

Tomorrow's the big day. I'm up at 5.30am for the monitoring. Fingers crossed it doesn't go haywire!