Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006

Friday, March 31, 2006

Positive politics

Finally the Tory Party are forging ahead in terms of online campaigning. Although at the moment it is a fairly small proportion of the electorate who can be effectively touched by this sort of campaigning this proportion is only going to increase and the techniques honed can still be used to widen the party message.

The latest in this regard is this petition by George Osborne to keep the Home Computing Initiative which the Chancellor, having introduced, scrapped in the budget. I would urge you to sign up to it. The scheme is a great way to extend opportunity as well as better equipping our workforce for the challenges of an ever more technological economy.

This is a fine sign of the sort of positive politics we were promised by Mr Cameron and is the sort of thing all of us who wish to see greater constructive debate both in the centre-right and in politics should wholeheartedly support.

Even more encouraging than the use of the Party website for such a petition is the manner it is used. Comments are enabled and the article is fully linked up to other resources on the web as well as allowing easy navigation of the main site. Bravo!

Unstable multiculturalism

A great interview by Niall Ferguson on Australian Radio in which he says:

There’s been a wishful thought in Western society for some time, and that thought was that multiculturalism would be a stable entity, that if one allowed multiple religions and ethnicities to coexist, everything would be fine in a liberal society because free speech would be respected by all concerned. But unfortunately an intolerant minority, and I stress that it is a minority within Muslim communities, is determined not to respect the free speech and other liberal values that people in the West take for granted, and that’s the big problem, that liberals have to grapple with as much as conservatives, and I really feel quite strongly.

I can't add to that at all.

HAT-TIP: Pub Philosopher

Respect linked to bullying Liverpool mosque

So a few trouble-makers are making Condi Rice's visit to Liverpool and Blackburn a bit turbulent. The BBC reports the protests as organised by the Stop-the-War coalition - they probably are and they probably gave the requisite notice to the police - but we can't ignore the extent to which other entities are throwing their weight behind them. Given the pressure which Respect seems to be putting on supporters to travel up and join the protests for them to be able to muster such a poor turnout is in many ways quite encouraging.

It's also important to note just why Miss Rice's visit to the mosque was cancelled. Masjide Al-Hidayah mosque spokesman Ibrahim Masters said:

"The visit wasn't cancelled because we don't like Condoleezza Rice.

What these people had threatened to do was invade the mosque during dawn prayers.

It would have compromised the safety of the visiting dignitaries."

What price freedom? I have some experience of the far-left's modus operandi here, and it's pretty disgraceful.

Nonetheless, some credit is due to Respect's other campaigning techniques; they're using non-party groups as good cover to agitate and create the impression of a broader movement. It's a dangerous tactic as a result of the aims for which they're using it. It's also a very important one which I will be blogging more about later today...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Galloway rumbles "Fake Sheikh"

So George Galloway claims to have rumbled the "Fake Sheikh", the News of the World's undercover "reporter" who has caused so much trouble for so many in public life over the years. Fair play to Mr Galloway for picking up on him. I do have to say, however, reading Mr Galloway's article I can't help but feel he is somewhat exaggerating his achievements. After all, it wasn't until after leaving that he cottoned on to what they were doing. You also get the impression this is an attempt, albeit rather an impressive one, to head off any coverage the News of the Screws might run with on Sunday. His claims to being an eagle-eyed shrewd persona also falls fairly flat after the Sun's successful Valentine's hoax last month.

This certainly isn't proof the Respect MP is "whiter than white". If he'd cottoned onto the hoax then he wasn't going to show his true colours was he? Nonetheless, credit where credit's due. Where I can unreservedly agree with Mullah George is on his views of the Murdoch press. Stunts like this just further harm the standing of those in public life. That can't be a good thing.

ID compromise sell-out

Much as the ID card compromise may, I hate to say it, suit the short-term political goals of both the Conservatives and Labour it should in no way be heralded as a break-through. It permits, after all, the compilation of the most unpleasant aspect of the scheme, the national ID database, from 2008. This allows access for Government departments to all sorts of private information as well as creating the requirement for registration. When the police can be issued with portable fingerprint scanners how confident can we be that they won't have compiled a pretty exhaustive database, centrally-held, of course, in advance of that date anyway.

How precisely does this differ from a police state? They can blather all they like about how restricted access will be, but we all know just how applicable the slippery-slope argument is to Government powers and we're all too aware of the scope for abuse. This entire policy has been a textbook example of all that is malign about the current Labour Party. If the substance won't play well, then ignore the substance. Deflect off it as much as you possibly can. This is what has happened as the justifications have shifted from "entitlement cards" to anti-terror, from cracking down on benefit cheats to illegal immigration, from complying with international passport requirements to yesterday's gem from Home Office Minister Andy Burnham.

When asked why Labour had not told voters before that ID cards would be compulsory to carry he said: "Actually, we did." He added: "It is part of being a good citizen to prove who you are day in, day out. Police State? Nah...

Cab, m'am?

The Duke of Edinburgh's taxi also has a specially-moulded seat for the royal derriere...we should know as we made them! You can tell that it's a light news week, Government corruption investigations aside, when the Queen taking the royal cab to the theatre is a big story.

I suppose this is also the reason I was conned into buying the Evening Standard last night by the scandalous headline and hording splashes declaring "Secret Cabinet Plot to Oust Blair". It actually reported no such thing. Hilary Benn had merely authorised an aide to write an article for the Northern Echo. Journalists, eh...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sarko encore

You've got to admire Nicholas Sarkozy even if you don't love him. He's come out talking tough after the disturbances connected to the young labour market reforms the French Government wants to introduce.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told them to only get tough with those he called delinquents.

"My first instruction is that you protect the demonstrators, especially the youngest ones," he said.

"The second instruction is to arrest as many thugs, that means delinquents, as you can."

This is surely the right response. Not only does this partly amount to an attempt to undermine the legislature but it also undermines sensible debate and criticism of the proposed measures. My views are mixed on the reforms being proposed but I am quite clear that some action is needed to balm the sclerosis which is affecting the French labour market. If these measures help pave the way for a similar liberalisation of that market then they'll be a good thing. Best of British to those trying to force it through...

Friday, March 24, 2006

March for freedom

"If there is a walnut in your hand and people say thatit is a pearl, their saying will not benefit you in any way when you know that it is actually a walnut.And if there is a pearl in your hand and people say that it is a walnut, their saying will not harm you in any way when you know that it is actually a pearl." -Musa Al-Kadhim (AS), the 7th Imam

Tomorrow, from 2pm, in Trafalgar Square, is the March for Free Expression. It is a march against censorship for the right for all to speak freely. It is a march about allowing us to have the choice to offend (even if there is almost always one proper answer to that choice). If we cannot express ourselves and debate things we cannot be sure the "perceived truth" is right. That is the power of expression and the importance of free expression.

Trust People wholeheartedly endorses the statement of principle and I will be there with full lungs tomorrow.

"Free speech is the jewel in the crown of a civilized society and we curtail the right to freedom of expression at our peril. The common denominator of every totalitarian state is the suppression of free speech."

"My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular." - Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.

Supermarkets don't kill you, consumers do

Umair Haque at bubblegeneration has been explaining why Europe is the next innovative market leader. You'd have thought we'd have got all of these articles out of our systems a couple of years ago wouldn't you! Anyway, a key part of his argument seems to be that capitalism is well bad and an alternative is needed.

"Let me use an example to illustrate. The cost of Wal-Mart killing your local mom and pop bakery isn't just terrible food, no more friendly chats, and unemployment. In fact, Wal-Mart offsets your loss in quality with scale economies, creating value.

Actually, the real economic loss is more subtle, and much more pernicious: we lose entire sets of people deeply committed to what they do, which is where real creativity ultimately flows from. We lose people with skin in the game, and replace them with workerbots. The guys at your local bakery were makers of tiny cultures, not just producers of goods. Which do you think will be more valuable in a world of Chinese/Indian/etc hypercompetition - scale economies, or creativity driven by passion and commitment?"

Except, of course, Wal-Mart doesn't kill our local mom and pop bakeries. Nobody wanting to give them their money is what kills them. Lack of real popularity kills them. A preponderance of people who won't put their money where their mouth is kills them. All Wal-Mart does is make sure people who don't want to keep these places alive aren't held to ransom (although I do have some serious reservations about aspects of Wal-Mart's business practice; they're not exactly a perfect paragon of capitalistic virtue!).

A wind-up politician in a digital age...

Jacques Chirac has stormed out of a meeting at the EU summit because a Frenchman tried to make himself understood. He spoke in English! And I thought the delights of the EU were that we worked together for a common understanding...ah, that's just so long as it's the French view we understand...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Budget & Brown

Nothing really much new from Brown bar the same old bombast - he's trailed most of what he's said in the press and the PBR already anyway. David Cameron's response has been tremendous so far. What a start. He's genuinely inspiring - clear, convincing, eloquent, but most of all cutting. The message from this for a Brown premiership is clear: game on. The Tories have done their homework and done it well.

An analogue politician in a digital age. He is the past.

Elected Police Part 4: Tackling common arguments against

Over at Militant Moderate there's been a pretty detailed discussion of this ongoing series. Which raises some interesting points that need to be shot down early.

What problems would be caused by elected police chiefs? Firstly, there would be a tendency towards populism in policing. I do not dispute that policing, to be effective, needs the confidence of the community. There is a difference between upholding the law and pandering to an electorate, however - and elected police chiefs would run the risk of seeing someone elected on a promise to round up the usual suspects, rather than undergoing a thorough investigative process.

If there is real accountability to the electorate at the moment, as MM seems to suggest later on, there ought to be just the same risk of this happening at the moment. Even if it does happen though, it needs to be established just why this is a bad thing. I can't help but feel this suggests a disconnection from Peel's founding concept of public and police partnership. From where do the police derive their powers of force over people? From people. How is the exercise of their power legitimate if the public, insulated or protected from "populism" can have no say over what they want from their police? Can't the same, somewhat eerily, be said about all aspects of politics?

Secondly, it would also open up the question of how far local flexibility should go. Tolerance towards cannabis users in Brixton, for example, didn't really serve much of a useful purpose except to drive marijuana smokers there in droves. More to the point, it caused a lot of confusion regarding the actual legal status of the drug. A far cry from the equality before the law that should be the defining principle of the English legal system.

Brixton was, I understand, an experimental zone authorised by central Government which required a different approach to be authorised by specific legislative instrument. Such a variation in the law just is not within the control of individual police forces whose role is not to enforce the law, but to bring potential criminals to the courts where it can be enforced.

Where, then, does the role of the local police authority come in? They are vital, but in the selection of how to allocate resources. Far from the model proposed by Charles Clarke of forming super-constabularies, there should be a decentralisation of police forces further - in particular, giving funding directly to police stations and forces in large towns, who know best where resources should be deployed. The bulk of police work necessary for maintaining relations with the community is preventing crime and yobbishness, and it is local officers who should know their beats well enough to know how to allocate their funds. For matters or crimes that need greater coverage or special expertise, then specialist units on a more regional basis should be created.

Here MM is more on the right lines, but this is surely an argument in favour of elected sheriffs to replace local police authorities? To give them a real mandate to make changes, to stand up to Home Office bullying with the support of the people they serve, is to make much more likely the sort of changes Ken suggests.

The idea that elected chiefs will lead to greater community respect for the officer is somewhat flawed. Firstly, history shows examples of how School Boards became tools for political debates and disagreements that had nothing to do with education. It would be worrying if the decision to elect a police chief in a certain area came down to factors that were unconcerned with public order. Secondly, elections are, of their very nature, divisive. If one crime-ridden area has their choice for chief defeated, then they may have even less confidence in the police than before - and it may well exacerbate tensions in a region further, too.

At least they've had the chance to vote. Right now the majority of people served by the police may feel like those whose choice was defeated and they have no recourse at all. They just have to pay for what they're given.

Trust People claims that it is the idea of the police as a service provider to the Home Office that is causing the paperwork that stifles police operations. I disagree; it is the government's own target-driven culture that causes such problems. Elected police chiefs will be far from guaranteed to achieve a crackdown on paperwork - and they would certainly open up a whole can of worms as to what sort of latitude is needed.

I don't intend in any way to assert this plan as a final solution to all our policing woes - it just would make a difference, and a difference worth having. To give the local police authority/elected sheriff some real stature through a democratic mandate will provide a buffer or temporal check against further bureaucratic burdens passed down from Whitehall. It is the idea of the police as service provider to the Home Office which helps feed the target-driven culture. The two are self-enforcing. All governments will try to micromanage further that which is within their control. That is why a culture change in policing is needed to shake it up for the better.

There is accountability in the police force - through the form of the Home Secretary. That our electoral system is imperfect in how we can deal with him is another matter entirely.

The Home Secretary is not accountable to the electorate (save to his constituents as an MP - a different role entirely). He is accountable to Parliament. No matter how we change the Parliamentary electoral system there will never be a clear line of accountability between the Home Office and the people it serves. The important connection should be between people and their police force. The Home Secretary should be there to offer light-touch regulation of this relationship when needed. At the moment his role and the feeble link provided by police authorities just obscures it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Politicising Islam

I was at a thought-provoking but also slightly disturbing event this evening, entitled "Freedom of Speech vs. Right to Religion" and offering a panel and question-and-answer session, organised by the college Islamic Society. At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking, it's a no brainer. Somebody's free speech or free expression can't stop anyone practising their religion? Sadly, we didn't really get into the nitty gritty of whether the majority of Muslims there thought their religion mandated them to prevent the free expression of others in certain ways through the operation of law or outrage rather than reason.

The core point, as I see it, in relation to this matter is still the same. The cartoons represented an idea. It is an idea I would not broach in the way the cartoon sought to. Others clearly disagreed. Many Muslims agreed. Yet, despite sensitivities being hurt, what harm was caused by it? What freedoms or liberties were restricted by the printing of the cartoons? Nobody was forced to read them? If this is such a noxious idea we need to discuss the best way to deal with it. My response, is reason, discussion, debate. If it's really wrong, then the truth surely has nothing to fear from this. Many others, including many militant islamists, disagree; they would respond by banning it. Mr Galloway, according to my notes of the evening, told us that he would forceably shut up a white man he heard or saw insulting a black man. The real issue, at the core of all this, is how we resolve which approach is going to be better for society in the long-term. The sad truth is, you can't kill an idea. You can't kill it even if you momentarily suppress it. The best you can hope for is to make it risible and then defunct.

Instead too much of the panel's contributions focussed on outrage at the lot of Muslims across the world. Many grievances were aired on behalf of Muslims. Mohammed Ali, brains behind the Islam Channel, drew unnerving analogies. At one point, when talking about historic oppression of religious minorities in the West, he declared that the Jews didn't have Osama bin Laden, weapons of mass destruction or terrorism. In a rambling point, he concluded that they got killed anyway as they had no religious freedom of expression; that's why he believed the balance should be put right. He then asserted that "the West" wanted to eliminate Islam from the globe. The West had said that they had defeated Communism, which was just an ideology in the minds of an elite. Islam, however, is a religion in the hearts of the masses. Creepy stuff. In "the West" "they" have a choice, he concluded: eradicate racism and islamophobia or go down the path of Hitler and Mussolini.

He was challenged as to why, when he lives and works in Britain with his own television channel which he hopes shortly to launch in the USA, he still talked about the need for these problems to be resolved by "them" rather than "us". He responded by simply declaring that there is nothing in Britain for him to identify with. He sees himself in complete opposition to the entire British establishment. When so many people we would call Britons, who live in Briton, think of the problems of our society as needing a solution solely from others, not one involving them it is surely a dark day for this island.

Yvonne Ridley found it difficult to keep a straight face, she said, when she heard people talk of freedoms. Much of her address was impassioned and she clearly cares, but again she appeared to me to aim at radicalising the many Muslims in the audience with polemic, playing on the way the entire system of the Western world is meant to oppress them, rather than focussing on solutions and what Muslims and non-Muslims could do to alleviate these pressures. In her view, the Danish cartoons had nothing to do with free speech or free expression. It was racism. This begged the question, which was never posed, as to whether she'd ban such racism. That might have required us to engage with the question of free speech though...

The enthusiasm which convincing speakers such as Ms Ridley and Mr Ali whip up for such ideas, which place so many young and ambitious Muslims at complete odds with the country in which they live, worries me greatly. That such a significant proportion have such a hostile response to their country is disturbing. These aren't a handful of extremist Muslims on the fringes of society. Yet, the political messages being passed to them by the movement I witnessed this evening encourages them to see themselves in direct opposition to "the West". They are encouraged to conceive of themselves as hated and ostracised even more than they perhaps currently do. The Respect modus operandi seems to be to play on Muslims' sense of injustice and to use it as a tool to make them rail, irrationally, against aspects of the West. Aspects which the movement hates for political reasons.

Nowhere was this more clear than in George Galloway's address. The message I received, and which no doubt many of the Muslims in the audience received, was that nobody in the West gives a damn about Palestine, Srebrenicza, Kashmir, Afghanistan and a whole host of other bases used to justify hatred of the "Imperialistic West". But Muslims do. Even though, according to Mr Galloway, it scarcely registers a flicker in public opinion and policy in the West. We apparently have endless grief for the fallen in the West, but total equanimity to loss of Muslim life. This is why Muslims must follow the one true way. His. A rehashed route to an otherwise discredited socialistic utopia in which Western capitalism, which has delivered so much, is smashed.

Now I can accept there are - legitimate - grievances against treatment of many Muslims across the world. What I cannot accept is that this polemic is right, or that it justifies setting Muslims off against the West. I say jaw-jaw not war-war. It is imperative we stop Muslim opinion being hijacked by those who wish to radicalise it for their own ends. Let us avoid reaching a stage when we feel so implacably opposed a showdown is a matter of when not if.

Surely this is one of the great challenges of our time? Surely this is an issue more worthy of our attentions than capping party donations? We have to make common ground with more pragmatic, moderate sectors of Muslim society to stop this becoming the battle extremists on both sides want between the traditional West and modern militant Islam. For at the moment we are carrying that mantle poorly.

Galloway meeting

I am going to an evening with George Galloway this evening; don't worry, I'm not paying! I hope to have a full report on here this evening and have a few choice questions for him. I don't expect any straight answers, just the usual bombast, but hopefully we'll show him up for what he is.

UPDATE 22/3/06:

Trust People can reveal, despite some online speculation Mr Galloway may have converted to Islam or that supporters may have been putting this about, this is emphatically not the case. My notes remind me that he put that rumour firmly to bed at this event last night by declaring he was Roman Catholic and that this was part of his identity.

Worrying stories were circulating a few weeks ago about comments an Algerian newspaper alleged he had made exaggerating the importance of the cartoons in comparison to the attack on the World Trade Center and the Tube bombings. These assertions are apparently false and the Times has printed a retraction of the words it reproduced. Unfortunately, despite this the newspaper itself is yet to print a retraction I can find or pull the interview from its website...


Squander Two says

"Bizarrely, El Khabar have still not published an amendment on their own site. This is an odd situation. If a journalist goes to El Khabar's site and quotes what is published there, El Khabar will get in touch and tell them to retract the untrue allegations.

Anyway, so, once again, to recap:The quote is fake: Galloway never said it.

Anyone who traces the quote to its source, El Khabar, will find evidence that it is genuine and no evidence of any retraction.

The quote, though fake, is sufficiently likely and realistic for Neil Williams, one of Galloway's political colleagues, to think it was genuine.Neil Williams, a prominent member of the Respect Party, repeatedly defended the quote as reasonable and sensible. Regardless of whether Galloway said it, Williams thinks it's a reasonable thing to have said. There have, as yet, been no mass denunciations of Williams's opinions on this matter by other members of the Respect Party, Galloway included."

Elected Police Part 3: How would it work?

Currently the tripartite structure of the police isn't delivering quality or accountability as it should. Police authorities, made up as they are in such an impenetrable manner, are distant and discordant with the public and the public's wishes. The public being exactly who they should be serving.

Instead these authorities should be scrapped. They would be replaced by a single person who should be directly elected by the people in each of the 43 police force areas in Britain. You could name this position what you will. They could be Chairmen, or we could revive the ancient position of Sheriff and turn it into a real position rather than a relic used for patronage (so olong as connotations with the wild west are not too great!). In London, where the police force is congruous with the constituency of a directly-elected Mayor, then this role should come within his or her remit. Mayor Livingstone should be given real powers to help focus the police on Londoners' priorities and Londoners should be able to make him account for what they do.

But what matters more than the name, at least from a practical viewpoint if not a political one, is what they would do.

They would hire and fire Chief Constables. They would control their own budgets and set their own targets, peeling back the emasculation of police authorities which has been seen since the Police and Magistrates Court Act 1994 and the Police Act 1996. They would take on the limited existing powers of police authorities. They would make their own Police Plans to focus implementation of the budget, making reforms such as those which helped transform New York's policing possible. There the Mayor, is responsible for the Police Commissioner, who was then Bill Bratton who was made to hold local commanders accountable for the crime rates in their precincts on a weekly basis. Law enforcement in the city was transformed. We'll come back to the precise detail of how New York became more accountable, and how this change could help something similar here, in due course. Most important is this principle: those elected to these posts would be directly accountable to the public for how their police force performs. Democratic accountability will connect the public with the police as the public hold them to account for their performance and offer an incentive to raise standards, and take us back to Peel's guiding principle of policing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

RIP Humphrey, Downing Street cat

Rest in peace.

Loans for peerages

The Tories are wrong to propose "an element of state-funding". This amounts to political parties demanding and coercing the public into funding them. A Conservative spokesman said "we want people to make more donations, more smaller donations, from more people. To pay for this there will be an element of state funding." I'm sorry? To pay for this? How does more people making more donations require the state to fund or pay for anything? Surely it's individuals paying for it? Unless, of course, the Conservative Party sees the income they currently get as something to which they have a divine right.

I, for one, do not want to see any of my tax money go to the Labour Party. I would like the Labour Party to be destroyed. I don't want it to be propped up. Other failing businesses are told to shape up or die, they're not propped up by taxation. The same should be the case for political parties. It's spineless. Funny how, when it comes to funding for ourselves, politicians all seem to be socialists now...

Brand Britain, wigs and gowns

The value of "Brand Britain" was something I only really appreciated living abroad and making close friends from around the world. How little we seem to know and understand this as a people is something I only really appreciated on returning home. "A liberal is someone who is afraid to take their own side in an argument" is a favoured criticism of the left in the US, but there is a ring of truth about it and it does carry an important message as well. You have to know when to defend your corner.

Too often in Britain we seem to knock the things which mark us out distinctively as a country. We seem ignorant of what marks us out as special around the globe and embarrassed about being what we are. In an increasingly homogenous world, albeit one with more internation interaction than probably ever before, being different is a major niche. More than that, it can be a valuable selling point.

Yes, we're a quirky people. Yes, we have ancient customs and practices. Why change it? What's wrong with that? This is all good. It's what makes us interesting, it's what can make us a more prominent tourist destination than we are, it's what makes us special. We should defend it, promote it, revel in it and play to our strengths developing our own distinctive niche.

One plank in the construction of a bridge towards this blandness is betrayed by the new head of the bar council. This is why it's infuriating that he's thrown his wig in with the modernist naysayers who want to consign it to the history books.

One of my first classes in America was a mind-numbingly tedious legal research class on the Law School's computers. At one point, my group was set the astonishingly thrilling task of accessing the international database on LexisNexis to find the last case in which Tony Blair's wife appeared. Cue tedious discussion about her keeping her maiden name for legal work. Anyway, when we'd finally all called up the case, the name of which thankfully escapes my mind, the professor started talking about the get-up British barristers wear in court. To prevent myself falling asleep, I called up an image of Cherie in her garb off Google. The entire room was fascinated: Americans, Chinese, Germans, Canadians, everyone. What's more they weren't ridiculing the crazy Brits, but were genuinely respectful of our customs and keen to learn more. We certainly weren't Googling pictures of famous German lawyers!

So what, though? Does what a bunch of law students Google really matter? In and of itself, obviously not. It does help illustrate that our traditions, little things like barristers wearing wigs and gowns, make us distinctive and special with no negative effect. It makes people interested in our country. It raises our profile. This can only be good, for commerce, for Britain's role in the world and for our sense of worth.

What's more, the wig and gown serve a positive purpose. They help mark out officers of the court - for barristers owe their first duty to the court - they help separate the barrister practising from the barrister in his private life and it helps to depersonalise lawyers from their personalities outside court and work. This too is needed in many other walks of life, but are passions so regularly so high and personal in other jobs?

Please let us not become blandly eurocratic. Keep that which makes us what we are, even if it's as small as this. Let's stay distinctive.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Liberal pressured over cartoons

You may recall editor of the Liberal, Ben Ramm, wielding the knife for Charles Kennedy just before Christmas. I knew him fairly well at university and he's a bright chap, although some disagree, but the story running on the Liberal homepage astonished me.

In short he meant for the organ to publish one of the Danish Mohammed cartoons which caused such offence during the "cartoon wars" and which continue to cause ructions. Yet he didn't, he pulled them, after Scotland Yard said it wouldn't provide him with police protection. Now I'm as vigorous a defender of free speech as anyone but I can't help but think his reasoning here, as betrayed by several questions he poses, just doesn't add up. Instead it looks just like another cheap publicity attempt for himself and his publication.

"Why, when we have been assured that the recent violent statements of demonstrators represent the opinions of only a small minority, have these extremists been able to effectively censor the press through threat and intimidation?"

Because you let them, quite simply. You didn't even publish them on your website, which now has gone so far as to not carry contact details of any shape or form, when this blog carried them since early on! There is a paucity of evidence anywhere of any direct threats targeted at the Liberal, and if it was mere fear of potential, perceived threats how could you claim a need for precautionary police protection? What's more, the mainstream media may have been effectively gagged but the blogging media was pretty rampantly free.

"What, exactly, does "finite resources" for the protection of journalists mean, both practically in the UK at this present time and in a healthy democracy at any time? (The French government's reaction to journalistic protection, for example, has been markedly different to that of our own)."

Yes, we should use our police to protect press freedoms, but with finite resources - which means there isn't a bottomless pit of money, not a concept with which I'd expect LibDems to be au fait - we have to prioritise. It probably means that until we think there's evidence of a direct threat we're not going to give you your own private officers. An argument which would, I admit, carry more water if the police weren't harassing shopkeepers over golliwogs...

I'm on the side of free speech. I ought to be on the side of the Liberal. Expecting the public to cough up, thereby restricting their own freedom to earn and spend money, in order to facilitate one publication of one item when there's no evidence of anything which would, in practice, restrict that publication seems a bit rich. Of course, it would be fascinating to see the bases upon which the police would give the magazine protection. Of course, that just might not make the Liberal's brave stand in such a shining light.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ken Owen shreds state funding of political parties

This soothed my throat and irritability today. Militant Moderate superbly dissects the greatest problems with state funding of political parties. My views are exactly on point with Ken's writing and I'm glad someone has taken the time to speak out against what seems to be the latest fad of choice of the chattering classes.

What's more, and Militant Moderate only averts to this point, I take objection to the existence of political parties becoming an essential part of our democratic system. This may sound odd if you've just read it for the first time, but at the moment parties play only a practical function in allowing democratic institutions to deliver what more of the public want as often as possible. There is no prerequisite for them to exist out of principle nor is there anything to make their continued survival more likely if someone comes up with a better idea. They do not play an inherent role in our democratic process from a theoretical or legal perspective. I would be very concerned at a change to the system which effectively made the existence of parties as the dominant force in our political process inevitable, both practially and theoretically.

The state should not be used to prop up "big old players" in the market for political parties. Indeed, one could say, if they cannot retain our confidence in relation to finances they deserve to die. Much better such a death than to let them loose on the public's finances...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Grim days

I have a filthy throat infection. So not much blogging energy as I still have inordinate amounts of work to do.

BUT having said that did you see Question Time last night? Things have got bad for the Government when every question pivots over the Government ballsing things up and their representative can't come up with a half-convincing response to any of them. Then again, it was Margaret Hodge...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Police Elections Part 2: Why change is needed

So that's theory.

It's easy to see why some focus so much on the avoidance of political interference being a good thing. No single organisation or individual can control or direct the police force. It's at this point where I begin to swim against the tide. Yes, we must avoid a politicised police - it would be reckless to permit the exercise of such force as the police wield for personal reasons. What we must also avoid, however, is the complete absence of real accountability, accountability to the community, for police performance. At the moment we're not far from this point. Precisely because there are so many people interested everyone can get away with blaming everyone else. Just this absence of accountability, just this absence of connection with the public - the public who should be such a key part of policing - is the greatest problem with policing today and the greatest barrier to spreading good practice and ending lazy practice.

Accountability to those who stand to either benefit or lose from something is good. It breeds responsibility, it breeds focus on one's job and responsibilities, and how one can do what is wanted by those one's meant to help. This in turn breeds results, through extra effort, extra thought and that extra focus. The Chief Constables don't obey the community or the people though. They obey the Home Secretary. They are not accountable in accordance with the values with which the communities they police believe they should be accountable. In ignoring the public, and having to focus on the Home Secretary alone, they cater to the centrally-perceived view of what they should do, not the view of the communities of which they are meant to be part. In the same way that centrally-determined targets stifle and harm schools and hospitals they stifle community policing - we see that through the Home Office-mandated form filling which blights and hinders the police so much. Remember from the General Election the extra, non-productive hassle caused by this? It takes up seven minutes of an officer's time for every person they stop, and thereby discourages that officer from engaging with the public or stopping suspicious people. The assumption here is that neither people nor the police can be trusted to do their job. Only, we are told, the Home Office, in their infinite - erm - wisdom, can ensure the public and the police cooperate properly.

Ah, I hear you say, but I haven't mentioned police authorities. Surely they are the connection between Chief Constables and the Home Secretary? Sadly they are neither a connection nor a way of holding the police to account. This is the crux of the need for direct elections. They don't fulfill the role in practice the idealists think they do in theory. They're meant to represent the public and ensure the police force is accountable to people it serves, so how best should they do this? Trust people to make the right decision? Directly elect someone to do it, you say? Too simple. Not establishment enough. Instead they're made up of appointed local councillors, "independent" Home Office nominees and a handful of hand-picked magistrates (who have already been hand-picked once themselves). As such they lack any actual clout. That's why they don't hold local police to account for local people and why the Government feels it can, and does, ride roughshod over them. If you want to know what the Home Office really thinks, cast your mind back to this?

In particular since 1997, but before that as well, these authorities have become by far the weakest of the pillars. The police are accountable in practice not to people they serve, or their representatives, but to the Home Office in Whitehall. They then deploy the full paraphernalia of regulation, targets, diversity awareness training and the like to hit their targets not the targets of the people the police are meant to serve.

Policing has never been a central government venture. It's been a local venture, loosely regulated centrally, to work with and for local people. That's what it should remain. We should resist this ever-centralising tendency, resist this Home Office de facto power grab, and give power back to local people decisively by directly electing a single representative to replace the police authority.

Police Elections Part 1: understanding the current system

Current problems with crime centre around the engagement, or rather disengagement, of growing numbers of people with society. The causes of this are two-fold. Firstly, we have seen a decline in effective enforcement of the law by law enforcement bodies. Secondly, we have witnessed a breakdown of families, geographical communities and the self-policing that flows from these and helps ensure "decent" behaviour.

These two are combined, and combine, to cause the problems we face today. In fact they're inextricably linked. With weaker policing communities are damaged. With weaker, damaged communities, the role of the police becomes wider, but also deeper as damaged, weak communities are harder to police. Recognition of this comes from the founding father of British policing. In founding the Metropolitan Police, in 1829, Sir Robert Peel said "Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police." Are the police the public, and the public the police today? Nobody can honestly answer that, yes.

In 1964 a tripartite structure for the police force was drawn up. The three columns which held up the police portico were the Home Secretary, the Chief Constable and the "Local Police Authority". 1964, mind, was arguably the high water mark of Butskellism, the post-war entrenchment of apparently undeniable values in systems to serve the British public. So, how did this structure envisage the police working?

The home secretary has the overall responsibility for the police force, but his role is meant solely as supervisor and co-ordinator of the force. The 'direction and control' of each regional force falls to the chief constables, with the police authorities overseeing their work to ensure 'adequate and efficient' work is carried out by all police forces. The establishment consensus is that the three-way system has been effectively implemented. The theory is it avoids political interference in policing, and doesn't give any single organisation, or individual, power over the activities or functions of the police force.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Elected police chiefs

Blogs are often criticised for being too fatuous and praised as fora for detailed discussion and analysis of ideas and policies. Trust People thinks that both are important, but wishes now to focus a little on one specific policy idea which has regained its profile somewhat in recent weeks, in no small part down to the continuing antics of the head of the Met, Sir Ian Blair.

Before this, however, tales of my "have-a-go-hero" antics had stimulated a fairly rigorous discussion of the potential advantages, or not, of electing heads of police forces. This is an issue about which Trust People, in keeping with its name, feels quite strongly. As such today marks the launch of a series of posts which will set out the need for and advantages of a system of directly-elected sheriffs for each police force, before dealing with some of the accusations which will be thrown against the scheme.

PMQs: Campbell creaking, Cameron cruising, Blair bothered

Having just seen the replay of Prime Minister's Questions today three clear themes seemed to leap out.

Blair seemed truly bothered by the awkward position in which he finds himself, and I think that lead to his genuine temper in his exchanges with Cameron. He's not exactly had much practice arguing for things on the basis of "equality and fairness" in the Commons recently, and it is particularly difficult when his backbenches are so hostile to his proposals on precisely these bases.

Cameron has truly outflanked Blair on this. And boy did he know it. Today he was cruising, seemed genuinely calm and confident and really communicated his simple message well. We're onside with these reforms; what does it say about Labour that they're so riddled with division over it? Even in the face of Blair's salvo you could tell that he enjoyed seeing the fruition of the second big strategy of his leadership. For the first time today I found myself truly behind Cameron, urging him on as I did Hague and Howard before him. Before now I've understood he's had to do what he's done but it hasn't inspired me. I really feel, at the end of his first 100 days as leader, DC is getting his wind.

And so, last and least, we come to Campbell. Forth monstered him with a devilish quip about his age, asking him to declare his interest in his question on pensions. After that the wheels fell off. He couldn't take it, misdelivered a witty aside so that it fell flat, and died on his feet after that. Not a good omen!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Education bill tribulations

With the big vote on the Education Bill approaching it appears that Cameron has played a blinder. Labour rebels aren't being very effectively bought off by the Government (and announcements about pulling out 800 troops made with such fanfare are a pretty feeble effort) and Cameron's robust and public endorsement of the Bill is putting them off even more. Blair's limited the short-term damage by sticking to his (retrenched) guns and not watering it down any more. At least he won't be accused from both sides with that strategy. The biggest risk for him is that it gets MPs used to rebelling - once the line's been crossed it makes it psychologically much easier to do again - and hastens the left's desire for something different. Worst of all it makes it look like the Tories are doing much of the running. With the brouhaha over asylum applications this should all make PMQs tomorrow pretty compelling.

In the meantime, I can't believe I've not come across this blog , Burning our Money, by Wat Tyler until now. Brilliant stuff. It'll be on the blogroll soon.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Churchill in a straitjacket?

So Rethink, a mental health charity, have a statue of Churchill in a straitjacket to demonstrate that he had depression, a "mental health problem". Besides a cheap publicity stunt there is something in raising awareness of the problems people like Churchill overcame. To try to do that through symbolism like this, however, just leaves a very sour taste in my mouth, not least because the statue appears lifelike and I'm all but certain Churchill never actually came near a straitjacket.

Allen Packwood of the Churchill Archives in Cambridge hits the nail on the head: "What I would question is whether his depression was ever really a straitjacket for him." Well, quite.

BBC is now reporting, as pointed out to me, that Churchill apparently said himself that he was once in a straitjacket for his depression, although I would be intrigued to know what the source for this is.

Some background on the statue, which is now in the limelight of Norwich. It was originally proposed for Trafalgar Square back in September 2004, but the GLA boycotted the plan, before which Rethink began to tour it round London with a sash attacking prejudice against the mentally ill. It sounds to me like they have a bit of a thing about it, rather than just using it as a powerful piece of art. Although mental illness is a difficult subject and we ought to tackle prejudice based around it, I have to say that depicting it as so inherently connected with a straitjacket is in my book pretty counterproductive. Surely that stereotypical image is exactly what the charity should want to move away from?

What a plug

Don't you love the way that the BBC, in this amazing story about a man whose accelerator jammed on his BMW 318... before his brakes later failed... as he drove 61 miles... at 135 mph... until he crashed into a roundabout, have linked to the BMW website!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Profumo: a great man passes away

What John Profumo did many moons ago - lying to Parliament about relations with a call girl who had relations with a senior Soviet spy - was disgraceful. In his disgrace, as a Minister with a glittering career behind him, he threw himself into a new direction, to continue using his undoubted skills and abilities to change and shape the world for the better. Jack Profumo took the blows, could have retreated, selfishly, into himself and the world of his family and friends, but he didn't. He stood up, took his mistakes on his chin, and strove to do good. And, boy, did he do good. Today marks the death of a great man.

Berlusconi indicted

Breaking news is that Berlusconi and Mills are facing applications to allow them to be indicted in the Italian court in relation to the alleged bribery and perjury charges which have been floating round the British press for weeks. I know that this is in the personal sphere for Jowell, but you do have to begin to question her when her husband is involved in something like this (let alone that she must have known from her signatures on mortgage documents), allegedly, and she supposedly had no idea at all. What doesn't she know about in her department?!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Understanding America

One of the biggest stories in the States at the moment is the takeover of P&O by the Middle East-based Dubai Ports World. It's an issue for Americans because P&O operates a number of important ports (both in terms of trade and symbolism) including Baltimore and, one with which I am much more familiar, Philadelphia. The issue for America is the jitters about port security being run from the Middle East, dressed up in terms of "America providing security for America's ports".

Sadly, this populist approach, ignores the fact that at the moment it's not Americans running these ports, per se, at the moment we Brits from London do through P&O. What's more it's the CoastGuard that provides security not the port management. The fact it's populist doesn't, it's important to note, make it necessarily wrong. It does mean that the arguments made need to be particularly well-reasoned. Sadly, from what I've seen, they're not.

For me, a right-of-centre, free-market democrat, who still believes in the importance of nations as a way of binding together people and values, it's a "no brainer". DP World believes it can run P&O, and by implication American ports, better and more efficiently than P&O's current management/ownership. They're willing to put substantial sums of money where their mouth is. What's more engagement with the world outside Europe and North America can only help raise living standards, cement Western democratic values and provide a stable economy leading on to a stable social situation in those regions, not least of all the Middle East.

We have to remember that the vast majority of the world is not as internationalistic as Britain; our Government could do well to remember this and place more focus on preventing Spain and France gaining short-term advantage to our detriment through what amounts to state-backed subsidy schemes. In understanding the issue it is vital to remember the two dominant strains of American political thought: capitalism and patriotism. The Republicans have, ingeniously, managed to bind the two, to their great credit and to their electoral success. This issue, however, throws the two into stark and obvious contrast. For this reason, the way the conflict between the two is resolved, should be taken much more seriously both here in Britain and around the world than current coverage (or the lack thereof) suggests it will be. For Republicans must decide how much they need cheerleaders, like Lou Dobbs, onside to broaden popular appeal on other matters, and, more importantly, whether they can afford to jettison more lazy right-wing thinking in order to do the right thing. The way they resolve that will mean much for the world economy. Will they seek the economically sensible and socially responsible method, of treating the less developed world as potential partners, or will the more regressive, middle America store up problems for itself with short-term thinking based around a view of America and the world as mere master and servant.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The police, wasting time on Golliwogs and chasing but not catching burglars

Sorry for sporadic blogging over and either side of the weekend but it's been quite an eventful few days. On Friday I returned to the Heart of England (also known as the Black Country) for business. Having had a thoroughly tiring week I was looking forward, after sorting out a few things during the day, to a decent night's sleep in the area I still think of as home. Just as I was about to turn in I had the misfortune of seeing this item on the venerable Midlands Today.

Apparently a storeowner in sleepy Bromyard was dragged out to his shop one evening so that police could confiscate some illegal items he was selling. No, not stolen goods. No, not drugs, even. No, not even cartoons. Cuddly animals - which just happened to be golliwogs. As Laban Tall has noted in the meantime, you have to watch the linked video from the programme to understand the full horror that the police had to tackle. The shop owner, Mr Reynolds, will be "advised about the sensitivities of displaying them" after West Mercia Police said the toys were seized under section 5 of the Public Order Act which makes it an offence to display anything which could be deemed as threatening, abusive or insulting. If that's not Clockwork Orange-esque re-education I dread to think what's the come. Whatever the ins-and-outs of the golliwog argument surely it can't be illegal to sell them, I thought. Surely the police can find better things to do than attempting social engineering through cuddly toy confiscations? Especially after so much inaction over this.

Still, mildly irritated I went to bed safe in the knowledge no politically-incorrect toys would be parading around my village that night.

Unfortunately, I only got two hours sleep.

The phone rang, waking me up.

There had been an alarm activation at one of the business's factories. Police had gone but hadn't seen anything. They were logging it as a false alarm.

Cue panic, leaping into car, grabbing of torches and keys. At least we don't manufacture golliwogs. Whilst charging hell for leather up the M5 at 2.30am I managed enough serenity to speculate at the inordinate amount of black smoke rising from farmers' fields for that time of the morning on such a cold and snowy night; regulation may sound nice from a cosy desk in Whitehall or Brussels, but doesn't it just make things more difficult and force them underground rather than really stopping them?

On arriving at the factory we walked stealthily up the side. A clang inside stopped us in our tracks as we were about to open the door. We continued to the top and saw where windows had been smashed to find a way in. Fortunately, in this modern, multicultural, compassionate and equal society we'd already realised it was best to bar them. Glass stops no man, if really determined.

Hearing no more sound we ventured in. The lights went on. I shouted. Turning, I went back to lock the door behind us. No need to give anyone an extra escape route. As I did so Paul heard a noise at the back of the factory and called to me about it. I'd heard something else. A muffled shout outside, then frantic footsteps. I rushed to the door now and flung it open. Two shadows charged past outside.

Then my brain switched off. I grabbed a metal bar from near the doorway and charged after them. Hell for leather I went down the side of the factory. "Come on, you bastards," I roared. Exactly why, don't ask me! The way they took off then, before splitting at the gates (fortunately right under the glare of a street lamp where I had a great view of their faces). Would I have been prosecuted if they'd turned around and I'd clobbered one of them at the edge of the premises? They must have been rattled. They wouldn't have been expecting us, of course, the police had already been, found it was a false alarm, not seen a giant roller shutter door was open and left. 999 was dialled immediately. Retrospectively, I couldn't quite believe I'd chased them off. The power of perceived authority, I suppose.

To be fair to the bobbies who got out to help us they wanted to do a good job. They just didn't have the manpower to talk to us and keep an eye on the streets nearby, either to spot the burglars or prevent other offences, at the same time. Half an hour later there was a job done at the school down the road. The way alarms in the area kept sporadically sounding seemed like a macabre orchestra. Such is old urban England on a Friday night. There then ensued an even more tiring night with the police and resecuring the factory. Saturday night was quite anxious as we expected them to try to come back and finish the job the next day. No Scene of Crime Officers rushed out. No desire for prints, evidence of entry or anything. They'd come out the week before and missed the attempted point of entry. This time there wasn't any effort to understand why they'd missed them again after initially responding to the alarm call.

Fortunately, we were lucky (or just blind reckless) enough to take matters just a little bit into our own hands. As a result - touch wood - they've been seen off. Sadly, this has nothing to do with the well-meaning police.

The entire incident has made me think more about our police. Many of them are good, well-intentioned boys and girls who just want to stop and solve crimes. Sadly, others are not. Even more sad, is the fact that their superiors, over-sensitive to politically-correct whims, to gollies, to comments on radio talk programmes and to trying to mould the community, tie their hands and make it even more difficult for them to do the little they could. What's needed is a more responsive system. Whereby the aims and goals of the police are more directly tied to the communities they serve, not what it is perceived, in some distant office, that those communities want. I've said it before, and it seems an easy solution, but elected heads of the police would help. It wouldn't tackle every problem or transform the force itself - but it wouldn't half help and wouldn't half help establish the public's confidence not just in law enforcement bodies, not even just the law as well, but in the value of going to the ballot box and casting your vote.

The area known for its griminess around Dudley and Wolverhampton formerly known as black

I'm always cautious about talking about the Black Country now - even though I shouldn't be. Thinking about it whilst drafting the above piece, and seeing it in the same story as golliwogs reminded me of just why I'm so cautious.

Last year, whilst working as a part-time receptionist at a Premier Travel Inn (there are many stories there...) I was about the only person who worked at the desk who spoke English as a first language. A few of us were chatting at a quiet moment and I was asked where I'd come from, and I explained I was born around the Midlands and the Black Country. The conversation developed and moved on. I finished the shift and thought nothing more of it.

A couple of days later, I was on shift again with one of the girls who'd been working with me a few days earlier. In another quiet moment she took me to one side. "Which part of Africa were you from?" she asked. I was puzzled and didn't know what to say. "You really shouldn't talk about it the way you did on Sunday, you know," she went on.

"I really don't understand. What do you mean?" I asked.

"You shouldn't call it the Black Country, especially if you're from Africa yourself."

The penny dropped...

Monday, March 06, 2006

End of an era or a legal loophole?

This will surely be a sad loss. Now, of course, there will be fewer bars which don't have to obey normal licensing laws and in which you'll be able to smoke come next year...


The post entitled "IT'S CAMPBELL" should in no way suggest that anybody employed by, working for or involved with the Huhne campaign for the Liberal Democrat leadership played any part in communicating what the result of the election was prior to its public announcement. Any inference otherwise drawn by readers would be entirely incorrect.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ming the Mithered or The Temptation of Young Turks

Reflections on the Lib Dem leadership are tough for me, in large part because I struggle to develop firm views about them.

In my head, as a Conservative, I most feared Huhne. He, I am loathe to admit, did have a certain credibility on economics and seemed to have his head switched on if not to the substance then certainly to the rhetorical appeal of economic liberalism. He also seemed to have the poise to potentially break free of the sandal wearers freaky social pecadilloes on policy. He, with some notable assistance I think it's fair to say, ran a slick campaign that brought him from nowhere to near the heart of the party.

Hughes would have been manna. He would have consolidated Lib Dem support, but I had no concern he would or could reach beyond this.

In my heart I most worried about Campbell. Not for who he was, or what he could do, but because he offered a very real prospect, if elected, of delivering Nick Clegg - a much more formidable option - to the leadership in the not too distant future.

Nonetheless, in the short-term he would offer ideal territory for the Tories to make gains. He has too much of the Paddy Ashdown about him to offer more than a fringe role for the Lib Dems. Having seen his acceptance speech, as he seemed to stumble or mumble through parts, he hardly cut a dynamic and invigorating figure. I know think he may hurt the Lib Dems enough for a Clegg leadership after the next election to be of little import to the wider political scene. What's more, what I've seen of Clegg during the last few months has made me far less concerned he would present a credible threat to the Conservative Party.

Allied to this, Huhne's audacious bid for the job has risked a split amongst the so-called "Orange Bookers", enough to offer promise that their effectiveness as a force within and without the Lib Dems may be lessened. I can't see Clegg and Huhne going on holiday together.

Looking at the situation now, seeing how old and "of another time" Ming came across today, and the cack-handed planning of the declaration from a media standpoint I don't think there's much at all to be sad about around the result. Let's just see how long the young turks can stomach Ming the Mithered.

Cack-handed media planning; just what is this?

And finally, despite having a manic day yesterday I was delighted to be able to break Trust People's third ever scoop, in being the first to lead with the story of Ming's victory. Having sent the readership figures through the roof I hope to have more to excite you with in the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Word on the street is that it's being called for Ming inside Cowley Street. Campbell is the new Lib Dem leader!

DISCLAIMER AT 14.24. Can't get in touch with a good friend on Team Huhne. That could be due to victory prep so I'm not as confident as I was. It could also be due to a recount, of course. Or because he's worked hard and the campaign didn't quite get there...

... or because he would never leak anything to a Tory, the party rightly expected confidentiality over the result and no loyal Lib Dem had any interest in leaking that information.
Please see clarification.
UPDATED 6/3/06

Lib Dem leader

My men on in the inside of the count tell me no sign or indication as of yet...but "turnout" edging 70%.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Prime Minister's Questions, Cameron knockout

Just watching PMQs. Cameron ran rings around Blair over the Education Bill, gathering a shopping list of items from the White Paper which remain in order to put off Labour rebels from supporting it. He then made the PM even more uncomfortable by probing him as to his position as PM if he was governing with Tory support. This tactic is working brilliantly and the more DC pushes it the less likely Blair is to get the support from his own party which he needs. What's more, Cameron appears statesmanlike, as if he's doing the right thing, Blair looks like he's politicking. All he could do was squirm and his normal routine of reeling off statistics suggesting Government benevolence fell truly flat. The body language of the Labour front bench - in particular of surly Gordon Brown frowing, snarling and raising his eyes to the sky - was classic. They are worried, they feel exposed and they feel unsure. The perfect time for a Tory resurgence.

UPDATE: Blair now stuttering and mumbling. Is he rattled?

Trust people endorses Cameron wanting to trust people

Trust People is delighted that the Conservative Party is embracing its mantra about the importance of trusting people so strongly. I'm certain that the hits I've been getting from CCHQ have absolutely nothing to do with it. It is pleasing that Cameron is now trying to focus his agenda on exactly what the party will change to. This is the process which will culminate in the detail policy positions which the party will promote at the next election. It is absolutely correct that this is not rushed and, in particular, that policy positions are certainly not drawn out in detail prior to any confirmation of who the other party leaders will be in the next election!

This blog will officially endorse the "Built to Last" statement and, hopefully, give a rundown commentary of my opinions point-by-point as soon as I've finished my long-promised article on what the Tories can learn from the Republicans. For now, despite my concerns that it could amount to mere froth, it will get my vote. In the meantime I'll be looking for David Cameron to face up much more directly to questions, comments and queries made about him.

In the meantime, trust people. And read Iain Dale's very accurate report of last night's launch of the document at Vinopolis.

Scandalous tittle-tattle

A cringeworthy poem, penned by one right-wing diary columnist, is about to do the politico rounds here in London. The poem is his way of professing his love for a lovely young lady working in the office of a leading Conservative MP. I don't like gossip and tittle-tattle, so I'm refusing to publish it out of respect to the young lady. Just thought I'd pass on what I'd been told by my spy.