Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Go Oxford, go...

Simon Jenkins is spot on in yesterday's Times about the way forward for universities in the UK.

"British universities cannot survive in the long term as outposts of central government. They must regain their autonomy. But the first to move will not be Oxford or Cambridge. It will be somewhere in London. When that happens Oxbridge had better look to its laurels."

Howard's asylum policy

Dreadful though I feel in saying this I cannot in all conscience agree with the Conservative asylum policy. For economic immigration I can see a certain amount of justification for an Australian-style points system. On asylum though I am a little shocked.

I'll be absolutely honest, and admit right off that immigration, and refugees to the extent they overlap, are not subjects which get my blood flowing. I find it really hard to get worked up either way and it normally takes a pretty extreme view to get me talking on the topic.

The current proposal on the table though shocks me. It is genuinely Michael Howard's plan to, in effect, accept unlimited numbers of economic migrants from within the EU - from France, Poland and Estonia - yet to turn away genuine refugees back to war, torture and oppression they have fleed from. In all conscience that is not a policy I could stomach. Of course, there's a balance to be reached but I'm not convinced that unilateral Government quotas on refugees are the way to go.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Not so useless after all?

Just another quicky, but doesn't this breaking story, about Blair and Brown coming out to launch a massive public scaremongering session, suggest they might have been just a little bit rattled by the reaction they've picked up to the Tory plans?

Forgive me if I'm barking up the wrong tree - I do tend to get overly optimistic come election time - but having appeared to have barely spoken to each other for weeks this does seem to be an interesting shift and makes me wonder what caused it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

We are all equal but some are more equal than others...

If flags and flagpoles need planning permission then they need planning permission. The fact that some people are, perfectly justifiably, more attached to their flags than anyone else shouldn't matter. It probably wasn't the most tactful move ever to refer to 'advertising' though...

WD40 to the rescue!

This article is truly hilarious. I'm keen to get away from lots of short posts but I had to reproduce this.

"WD40 is not a chemical normally associated with combating illegal drug use. Defoliants over Colombia, maybe. But not WD40.
According to a report on the BBC Radio Five Live Breakfast show (wind the player through to 01:40 and listen), Avon and Somerset police are advising Bristol bar owners to spray the household cleaner and lubricant in their bathrooms to stop cocaine use.
The spray puts an "invisible film" over toilets and basins that absorbs the cocaine when any tries to snort it off them. It instead turns it into a congealed mess. The advice comes just a few days after BBC Wiltshire reported that a pub owner in Swindon was spraying it on toilet seats because anyone who then tried to snort cocaine off them got a nose bleed.
When telephoned, a spokeswoman for WD40 told Guardian Unlimited it did not recommend the use of the spray internally. But the company is otherwise keen to promote as a wide a use of its products as possible and the press release section of its website is a testament to ingenious PR. Even things that you never knew were problems – such as snow stuck to shovels or too-tight wheels on rolling ping pong tables – can be remedied with WD40, it claims.
It doesn't end there - most imaginative is the advice from "TV's Handy' Andy" on how the spray can pep up your love life. Before a night of romance unstick the dimmer switches, free-up the corkscrew and fix creaky bedsprings. Around the point I stopped reading it suggested WD40 can "ensure zips slide freely". Drugs and WD40, you can just about take it - but please, not sex."

Monday, January 17, 2005

The real disingenuity

"If you have a government that is committed to spending money it hasn't got, you either have to cut frontline public services or you increase borrowing," says Alistair Darling, Transport Minister.

Problem is that he's not talking about the Labour Government is he - he's talking about Tory proposals. How disingenuous do you have to get, when it is Gordon Brown who has abandoned prudence for votes in extending the black hole in the public finances. It seems to me that, strategically, the big indicator of Tory failure electorally has been the problem of shifting the burden that Labour are the Tories in disguise - because, make no mistake, they may do Tory things, but this is no Tory Government - instead, assisted by the LibDems the accepted rhetoric now is that 'there's no difference between the two main parties'. Maybe just maybe in this five month election campaign the Tories can shift that back a bit...

Then again, it's not like the pseudo-opposition is any better. Party chairman Mr Taylor meanwhile said: "I don't think we, in our wildest dreams, thought that the Conservatives would drop the ball to the extent that they have done; on the war on Iraq, identity cards, student fees and the council tax, there was nothing to chose between the two big parties whereas the Liberal Democrats offered costed, sensible alternatives".

Oh - so the Tories are in favour of top-up fees are they? And they don't believe in low council tax rather than the high council tax of the LibDems? R-r-r-ight.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Reasons to oppose the ID card Bill 5:

They are not secure and would just allow many criminals access to a 'legitimate' false identity.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I haven't blogged on the tragic tsunami in S.E. Asia, but one thing which did surprise me at home was the number of people who couldn't actually pronounce tsunami. It's not just a product of the British education system though - I have heard seven different attempted pronunciations today alone in Philadelphia!

Building a new right-wing constituency

I thought that this article in yesterday's Telegraph was chillingly interesting. I do think it is a viable scenario, that Labour is so invigorated it can destroy the remnants of 'Tory Britain'. When you think about it where or what are the traditional bastions of Tory support? The more you think about it the more clear the challenge facing the Tories becomes.

Britain is changing - partly naturally and partly forcibly as a result of Labour interference and massacring of the constitution which has served us well. [When I hear talk of Gordon Brown wanting to talk about codifying the constitution as Prime Minister then I begin to get even more scared. Not because I have a phobia of codification, but because we all have seen how Labour will try to influence elections through electoral procedures (just look at postal voting) so why wouldn't they try to skew the playing field through the constitution?] As it changes traditional centres of Conservative power are dying, weakening or becoming openly sneered at. I even felt slightly embarassed over Christmas when someone was staring at me buying the Telegraph! As George Trefgarne says, business is becoming disinterested in politics and suits, who won't fele the pinch, have been partially mesmerised by Blair, the traditional Tory working class vote seems to have crumbled in the cities, fractious sorts who would have propped up moderate Toryism have been enchanted by the permatan glow of UKIP and traditional British 'institutions' are either sneered at or have bought into Blair's big tent. It's not even as if Britain has a religious right it can fall back on like in the US.

Labour is cementing its core constituency of support (despite shakes over Iraq and Blair's rightward march) whilst Blairism has attracted new constituencies and made them suddenly seem Labourite. This just reinforces my view that Conservatism has to re-engage with politics in a new way - it has to seem like it has a new application in Britain today. We have to accept that Blairism's one lasting achievement has been to move the political playing field. As such, we have to accept that the game has changed and that we can't mould things and develop new constituencies of support until he has been beaten on his own terms - the public's terms. Blair's Labour vision needs to be something we distance ourselves from to offer a choice. To do this Conservatives need to strengthen constituencies which are failed by Labour - which to be fair they are trying to do - to build a new vote base for power, as at the moment they just don't have it. The problem is that this focus does not fit within a new narrative to make the Party look like a real alternative. As such, it just looks like cynical Tories desperate for power. We need a new language and a new cause for a new politics and a changed Britain. A Britain in which we allow business to flourish on its own terms so it can compete with the world, and in which we promise people the freedom to prosper. This also means the freedom to make mistakes allied with the duty to accept the consequences of your actions. This could be Conservative territory and a vocabulary with which large swathes of the country agree. We need to develop the new vocabulary and then push it to the groups who are to become the new Tory vote base.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Travelling often places a spotlight on your faults

Whilst waiting in the taxi queue at Philly airport, having just got in from Heathrow, a most bewildering thing happened to me. A man, who only had one leg, in a wheelchair was wheeling himself across the road to the sidewalk along which the queue was stretched. I was the only one who moved my bags across to try to clear a space for him to wheel through, but I thought that he probably had enough room. He then asked for someone to help push him up onto the sidewalk to the group of people behind me. None of them reacted or responded, so when he asked again I went down onto the road to help push him up. He thanked me most kindly, and I felt a nice warm glow at having helped him. This quickly changed to a flash of irritation, however, when I turned back to see that the guy behind me in the queue had seen that as his chance to push in front of me. Being a stiff Brit, I didn't say anything - largely as I didn't want the hassle.

Now, I'd like to be able to say that this was just the sort of welcome back to America that I didn't want and that it was such a marked contrast to my Christmas in Britain. Unfortunately the guy was a Brit from Heathrow. I think that says a lot about the way our country (the UK) is going. We seem to do over-the-top, state-induced love-ins of compassion very well - that, of course is easy. When it comes to genuine acts of compassion or little matters of politeness and civility we find that much harder. Such, I suppose, is the problem of such a state-minded nation.

I'm back in Philly after my enforced absence for Christmas. Hello to all my readers left!