Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

More bawling from the touchline

I was enchanted, yesterday, by Robert Kendrick's valiant heroics against Nadal in Wimbledon.

A good day to be a Tory

Despite the apparent defeatism prevalent in some of the press today it is a good day for the Tories. This YouGov poll shows the party with a solid lead over Labour, it shows the parties level-pegging on economic competence - a crucially significant polling figure - and the Conservative leader more popular than the Prime Minister for the first time ever. These are significant steps forward for the party, as is winning a by-election for the first time in over ten years.

True, it isn't a great day; the Bromley majority should have been greater and there was an alarming slump in the Conservative vote. That said, there was a collapse in the Labour vote, much of which will have gone to the Lib Dems, a vastly-reduced turnout and a pretty negative series of attacks on Bob Neil, the new MP. The campaign itself also left much to be desired. Progress is still to be made and sustained in the polls. The party needs to break 40% and our message needs to be more coordinated. The day is nevertheless a good one. It is a mark of how far Cameron has brought the party that it is so easy to be negative about events. It is also a mark of how much more work there is to be done - and I don't necessarily mean Francis Maude's "faster, deeper, wider change" - that it is not better.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sickening shamelessness

The Lib Dems are at it again in Bromley.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Internet connection has been down; in the meantime Come on England!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Muslim collective responsibility

Pub Philosopher philosophises about the reaction of vocal elements of the Muslim community to bombings in the name of Islam as opposed to their reaction to elements of policing. Well worth a read. Whereas I feel any of the vocal elements may well not be representative of the vast majority of Muslim Britons there is increasingly a burden on them to make it positively clear they are not represented by some of the rabble rousers who barely appear to bat an eyelid at events like the 7 July bombings.

A load of wind

Isn't it about time that the Government woke up to the fact that this sort of power generation is not sustainable, despite what they say, and will have a lasting negative impact on the species and the delicate balance of the planet?

OK, the species in question is the eagle, not the human race, so its not going to attract the same headlines, but with all the wittering we hear about the evils of nuclear power, most notably from the Dim Libs, shouldn't we realise that all power generation and all aspects of our existence have some negative impact on the planet. The question is whether these negatives our outweighed by other benefits which can be gained. The sooner the debate develops more maturely in this manner, the sooner we realise there is no simple solve-all way forward but a series of difficult choices - no matter how much the dumb left might wish it were otherwise.

Defending free speech, promoting debate

Full marks to the Oxford Union for this debate on the Danish cartoons of Mohammed and the limits of free speech. Amongst the speakers was the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper which first published them. Apparently it required extensive security operations owing to the threat perceived by the police. Nonetheless, I am delighted that it went ahead and that a free and open exchange of ideas and arguments was able to take place. The Oxford and Cambridge Unions were founded to debate the issues of the day and promote the ideals of free speech within the country's greatest universities. Many say that although they have a right to invite whoever they want, they shouldn't invite speakers who are too controversial or who offend the sensible liberal values of the establishment. Such "unpleasant" speakers, the thinking goes, have a right to free speech but should not be positively provided with a platform to embellish this right. Unfortunately many who are most vocal in this viewpoint also try to suppress, often violently, the exercise of free speech to impose their views. This was just what happened at the Cambridge Union when I was an undergrad.

I have long rejected this complacent viewpoint. Unless those who hold the most controversial views are faced down, argued with and, ultimately, have their ideas disproved then they become ever more dangerous. Ignoring the BNP won't make them go away, as the Labour Party is discovering to its detriment in Barking & Dagenham. Ignoring questions many people raise about immigration won't make racism any less likely. Ignoring clashes between hardline religious fundamentalists and those who wish to aggressively assert press freedom and the freedom to offend won't resolve the issues or frictions. If what such people say is so tasteless and wrong it should surely be easy to discredit it - if our greatest institutions cannot formulate arguments to show how such repugnant ideas are so misguided, and why, then how can we possibly condemn them as wrong and hope to defeat them? It is only by submitting all ideas to scrutiny that we can reinforce what we believe to be right and establish beyond doubt that which is wrong. The truth surely has nothing to fear from debate.

I'm delighted that the Pub Philosopher reports that the motion that "This house believes free speech should be moderated by respect for religion" was defeated by 129 votes to 59.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

EU proposes EU curriculum

It's all about a power grab so that the central institutions can gain authority.

Still bawling

Reflections on England's draw with Sweden along with some fascinating writing from Militant Moderate over at the Touchline Bawler. Apart from Joe Cole's blinder my highlight of the evening was the heckle, in somewhat poor taste, that the onlooker "knew he should have started Crouch", as Owen lay in agony after the first minute of the game...

Real honest politics, American style

Jeremy Paxman's clash with Ann Coulter on Newsnight last night was a classic. In case you don't know she is the outspoken Republican supporter billed as the right-wing's Michael Moore who specialises in lefty-baiting and courting general controversy. To promote herself, of course. As you may expect she was greeted with the BBC's typically left-establishment bent from the beginning of her interview with Paxman. She then demonstrated just what I find refreshing about politics in America: people will say what they think and the real differences in approach, which I'm sure are just as pronounced, although hidden, over here, are allowed to shine through. She was happy to front up to Paxman, to flag up what his presumed beliefs are and to call them such, before unashamedly placing them in contrast to her own.

The absolute highlight was when she was badgered by Paxman about her claim that there was a leftist hegemony in the mass media: surely the fact she had been invited onto ABC, CNN and the BBC showed this wasn't true? "Yes, of course," she replied "after the warm welcome you just extended shows that must be the case." Paxman cringed, visibly wilting. He knew he'd been completely outflanked by someone who wasn't scared to call some shots or be honest about her beliefs.

Leftist bias in the media, particularly the BBC, and our somewhat associated irrational disdain in the UK for American politics seems to be something of a recurring theme. Simon Heffer, in an uncharacteristically excellent article about the continuing resentment of Thatcher by the left, flags up the Corporation's orthodox standpoint. Iain Dale makes a convincing case that America, far from being the navel-gazing home of zealotry that many wish to think it is, actually often engages in a more wide-ranging discussion of events around the world than ourselves. They are perhaps just more honest about what they think or feel about issues both at home and beyond their own shores. When you see how meaningless our "more sophisticated" politics feels at times a bit more direct honesty, US-style, is surely a good thing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Keeping lawyers in work

The furore over short prison terms is just the latest example of how easily ascertained, widely-held principles can become almost irredeemably tangled up by the Byzantine complexity inevitably resulting from repeated Government interference. The criminal justice "system" ought to represent a few fairly straightforward principles which the courts can apply when it comes to sentencing and punishment. The problem is that it's aimed at lawyers moreso than almost any other area of legislation. Whereas the people hold the Government accountable for the outcomes of the system it is the courts which do much of the implementation and have a very wide discretion as to how to solve it.

As a result we see Government, often in a knee-jerk manner, interfering with the system through new measures far too often. The Blair Government has introduced more criminal justice bills than it has had years in office. Even more were promised today in Parliament. Paradoxically, however, perhaps the best thing which a Government could do in criminal justice is to promise to do nothing for four years instead of these knee-jerk responses to whatever happens to fire the public imagination this week. If it did this, the courts could begin to acquaint themselves properly with the rules and apply them in something approaching an integrated manner, rather than - as so often happens - fumbling around in the dark with whatever the latest legislation is this week. Could we hope this could happen? Fat chance.

Instead we will get another array of provisions which must be applied by the courts with ever greater complexity rendering the system full of even more anomalies and legal exceptions. Lawyers (with frozen legal aid, mind) will truly be the only people who can properly follow it. Those of us unfortunate enough to become involved with the criminal courts as laypeople will be baffled by its intricacies and how hard it is to follow. And yet this should not be the case.

Why can't we have life sentences meaning life? Why can't we genuinely trust judges to set down sentences which are proportionate to the gravity of the crime and depravity of the criminal? Why when it comes to sentencing can't the system become truly transparent? Surely, if we accept prisoners need the prospect of parole, we can revamp, more honestly, how we describe jail terms. Why not describe a ten year sentence as it stands today, as a sentence of between five and ten years?

These seem to me questions with simple answers; but to act in response to them and sweep away the Byzantine layers of sentencing legislation, replacing it with a simple framework allowed to develop uninterfered for some years would require real political capital and conviction. Neither of which are evident in this unseemly row.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nottingham demands accountability: Elected Police part 5

A fascinating new blog has been started up at Sack the Sheriff to lobby for the resignation or sacking of John Clarke, the Chairman of the Nottinghamshire Police Authority. Nottingham was recently named as the "crime capital" of Britain both for overall crime and a large number of individual serious offences. The report can be found here (PDF). The blog argues that the local police chief should be held accountable and resign. Yet local people have no real power or say themselves over who imposes policing upon them in Nottingham.

My interest in this was piqued as I have long been pushing for the election of local Police Chiefs to help ensure direct local accountability for the provision of this vital public service and to refocus policing back on a partnership with the community that is being policed. On 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." This is a tradition which is perfectly in tune with modern concerns and approaches. Can we say hand on heart today, however that the police are the public, and the public the police? Nobody can honestly answer that, yes, least of all, it seems in Nottingham.

Liberal myths

Laban Tall is on the money again with a cutting critique of the myth of increasing domestic violence during the World Cup and, indeed, high-profile sporting events. Particularly intriguing was the definition of domestic violence adopted by one of the questionable studies purporting to lead to such results. "Verbal abuse" is domestic violence. The report doesn't say to whom it must be directed, but perhaps I was guilty of something approaching it owing to the verbal abuse I was launching at the television during England's opening game: most notably when Gerrard was booked!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A grumpy old man writes...

During my recent travels and in an attempt to sate my excitement prior to the World Cup I have been poring the sports pages of various newspapers in detail. A recurrent theme was intense irritation at the terrible treatment received by both logic and the English language at the hands of public figures and journalists.

One cannot give 110%. It is physically and practically impossible. Yet in one edition of a newspaper-which-shall-remain-nameless I counted no fewer than 11 references to a commitment greater than 100%. Wayne Rooney was 300% sure he would be fit for the World Cup, John Reid was "150% going to sort out" the Home Office and England's players were going to struggle to give 110% for an entire game in sweltering conditions.

Aside from the fact that 100% should surely be the physical maximum for any human I find such a cavalier approach to descriptions to devalue the value of our communication. How, for example, do we meaningfully refer to complete commitment? We cannot say that, to use a football analogy, a player always give 100% since we become so familiar with commitment which is apparently greater than 100% that it seems somehow deficient. How hard is it to understand you cannot physically commit more than 100% and that within those 100 percent there is a ready-defined scale of commitment?

PS: but mustn't life be tedious and miserable for some of us? My own view on the game? Job done. Sven, as I guessed he would after the early goal, was happy for the England side not to exert itself too much. Not my preferred tactics, nervy for the fans, but fine given the three points.

Lisbon, Europe and the World Cup

In celebration of Portugal's less than convincing victory over Angola in the World Cup tonight; some evidence of my recent visit to Lisbon in Portugal. I was intrigued yet again by just how closely connected Europe is. I spent part of one evening speaking, as an Englishman, in French to a Spanish taxi-driver in the Portuguese capital in a car otherwise full of Germans! That, of course, is a reason for practical cooperation and respect rather than subordination to an overmighty European executive - a common theme of my time spent in Lisbon and a topic for more discussion in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile the Touchline Bawler has rediscovered its energy and should hold much more on the World Cup as the drama develops.


Apologies for my absence of the last two weeks. Bar finals, business, the girlfriend and a conference in Lisbon have distracted me too much from blogging. Normal service should, I'm glad to say, now resume. Thank you to those readers who've contacted me to lament about my absence!