Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

18 Doughty Street grows...

The more I hear about 18 Doughty Street Talk TV the more impressed I am. It is just the shake-up that the political establishment needs and is also attracting enough heavy-hitters to justify some of its hype. I've just heard that a very well-qualified presenter has been recruited for foreign affairs segments who I feel fortunate to count as a friend. He'll be sure to provide the channel with interesting stuff to watch as well as intrigue to make it a focus of interest. This is just the right antidote to on-message politics and should allow a timely refocussing on policies and firm actions rather than purely personality.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Blair on Liberty; or How to Give Someone Half of Something That Was All Their Own and Pretend It Was A Present

Tony Blair's speech today demonstrated how Labour just doesn't get the concept of freedom. The fact the substance is being dwelt on so much less than the personalities shows how far political coverage in the UK has slipped. Surely this is truly a defining difference between the Tories and the Government. Just look at some of what he had to say:

"I don't want to live in a police state or a Big Brother society or put any of our essential freedoms in jeopardy. But because our idea of liberty is not keeping pace with change in reality, those freedoms are in jeopardy."

Eh? Isn't liberty, liberty? So, because they're in jeopardy, because some people don't like them we scrap them for them? The giveaway, of course, is the word "essential". We're allowed to keep our "essential" freedoms. Of course, we don't have the freedom to decide what is "essential" or not. Noooo, TB knows best, we can trust TB, he can decide for us, he knows best. Big Brother loves you.

"We can only protect liberty by making it relevant to the modern world."

Does anyone follow this? It's the same old chestnut as above isn't it? Since liberty is being threatened and at risk we scrap it. We can't defend it as it used to be so we run away. Brilliant. How exactly is what Tony Blair would call liberty free at all?

"That is why identity cards using biometric technology are not a breach of our basic rights, they are an essential part of responding to the reality of modern migration and protecting us against identity fraud."

Leaving aside the dodgy logic which leads to this conclusion a couple of factual queries here, Tone. Don't we already have a card system for economic migrants who wish to be employed? Hasn't that proved completely ineffectual because employers just don't check? If the current card system isn't used and is no use, why will a more expensive and onerous one be likely to an even greater waste of time and money? How much is the annual cost of ID fraud? Ah, yes. Nothing like the annual cost of ID cards will be. I'd think more of him if he just admitted it was a better way for him and his cronies to "manage" us and identify what of our "essential" freedoms we're allowed to keep this week.

"In the next parliamentary session, the centrepiece will be John Reid's immigration and law and order reforms. I ask people of all parties to support them. Let liberty stand up for the law-abiding."

Aside from the quite blatant bigging-up of a challenger to Gordon Brown... How can liberty stand up for anything? It's a state not an actor. This is just a shamless plug of the word as he's terrified of being outed as the authoritarian that he is with an understanding of liberty of which an A-Level student should be ashamed - even one who's had the misfortune to study under this Government.

Revolution at the bottom of my street?

Having just moved into a new flat I'm delighted I've already begun to attract hangers on! No sooner have I become a Bloomsbury resident than news begins to seep out of a new television station just down the road in Doughty Street. I have to say that I am very excited by it, and not just because 18 Doughty Street may be just down the road from me. It is a great opportunity to challenge the established - and often hidden - interests and agenda that are behind big media, so often and so falsely seen as unbiased disseminators of news. I look forward to hopefully being able to lend my support however possible.

It is possible to get carried away with the ability of the web, blogs and online streaming to transfrom the face of the media. I don't predict a revolution. There are obvious limitations and people do like a brand which they feel they can trust. There will always be a place for professional publications and media organisations. Nonetheless, I still believe blogs and ventures such as 18 Doughty Street will transform the way media works and how we get our information. The entire press will not collapse. Traditional TV and its advertising revenue won't crumble. It will, however, have to become more accountable, transparent and responsive to the public in order to survive in its current form.

The easier it is to set up alternative forms of media, the more accessible blogs become, both for reading and publishing, and the nearer new media brings us to the "figures" of the day (and many of them know this. We almost seem to be moving past an age of spin to "living spin", whereby public figures have to live their image rather than having it groomed at appropriate times. I'm loathe, however, to say it will out of necessity lead to us getting purely honest impressions of people as the process will always be managed in some ways.) then the greater the pressure of competition will become. That competition will either lead to great improvements and transformations in the BBC, the Times and Guardian, and even the likes of the Spectator or they will find times much harder. What is clear is that they will have to substantively change; just pandering to the existence of "blogs" with the odd corner column misses the point.

Isn't it so boring?

This entire spat with Brown and Blair would now barely be worthy of Coronation Street or Eastenders. Isn't it all getting just a little tedious? They managed to tolerate each other whilst the trappings of power dangled before them, but now it's all become old hat their real feelings come out. Can't they just learn from Peggy and Dot? Just have it out and be done with it. Otherwise ratings for politics in general are just going to slip as we've seen it all before. Sadly it doesn't seem as if Brown's got the bottle to finish things or the ability to rein in his outriders.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dave's back from India

David Cameron's foreign policy speech (full run-down here) was full of decent, deep, thought-provoking stuff. What's more it was particularly brave of him to speak out on this day of all days about an issue such as this. It should go some way to helping debunk the "spin over substance" line of attack which is infrequently thrown at him.

Our foreign policy under Blair has often tried to pursue the right principles and the right goals but its execution has left much to be desired. To that end, Cameron's call for "humility and patience" in the way we pursue our relationships around the world is timely and accurate, capturing something of the zeitgeist. I am always wary of over-praising "soft power", however. It is, I agree, a very important and under-valued tool. However, it can also be built up to justify what is, effectively, inaction and to give an impression of impact and action when, in reality, nothing is changing and it is achieving little. A perfect politician's tool and therefore one which should be particularly carefully monitored, examined and probed.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Prison working?

New webroots campaign launched yesterday - - looks very interesting. The pros and cons of prison have always bugged and intrigued me. I remain certain, however, whilst not ignoring the deterrent it can represent, that, it can be a force for good with a greater emphasis on how prisoners are treated whilst inside. It can help criminals rebuild and reshape their lives.

For a period whilst at Cambridge I began to believe that the man behind the phrase "prison works", Iron Mike Howard, was one of the worst Home Secretaries we'd had in terms of his legacy. I revised this greatly in no small part due to the conversation we had when I first met him. I challenged him about his record and he, quite rightly, pointed to the unambiguously excellent statistics for his period at the Home Office. His record in office was quite exceptional, especially when compared to the monumental wreck that represents Labour policy for that department. As he showed, prison can work. Hopefully this new effort, which draws from Howard's time as Home Secretary, will help demonstrate this.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My last story...

I love Guido. But you did hear this here first!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blair could still be PM in 12 months:

With any politician, especially one as gifted as Blair, you have to listen to precisely what words they use. The MSM doesn't seem to have picked up on this, but in his statement a few minutes ago Blair announced this would be his last Labour conference as Labour leader, not as PM. Were I Gordon Brown this would worry me greatly. Doesn't it offer the prospect of the leadership election culminating at the next Labour conference? Worse, doesn't it give the Blairite Ultras the leeway to coordinate a coherent and dangerous challenge to Brown, a man who Blair surely must see as an enemy after their shouting matches yesterday? That would be a contest designed specifically to harm Brown as much as possible. I wonder what David Davis' advice to GB would be on this...

This would be less of a worry for Blair, if he himself felt confident this would solve the wrangling. Sadly, his continued emphasis on the country's interests and ending squabbles make it quite clear he is as worried as anyone about the effect his words would have.

Far from reassuring Brown, this should make matters worse. This is exactly why, to offer certainty, the Brownite running dogs will continue to press Blair for a date. That or his head.

How New Labour rewrites history

I know it's only the latest in a litany of broken promises but does the New Labour project have no shame with having duped the nation with "Blair will serve a full third term"? Regardless of wrangling over his precise departure date, if it is at any point next year there is absolutely no way he can be said to have done a full term.

Worse, though, is Jack Straw's attempt to rewrite our constitution for political expediency today. Commons leader Jack Straw said voters expected Mr Blair to stay "to the halfway point of a normal four-year parliament", which would be May. Eh? A normal four-year parliament? There was me thinking elections had to be held every five years! Even if four years is normal, it's certainly not a full term. What a disingenuous opportunistic toad.

We should remember that this sort of deceit goes to Brown as well; after all he and his cronies were crowing the same full third term line too and their plotting places them right at the heart of these latest developments.

Unless of course this is choreographed to give Brown the basis upon which to go straight to the polls and call a snap election. Tories beware.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ponderings Whilst Abroad (No 2)

Whilst away I also pondered the question of Ming Campbell's gas-guzzling Jaguar. Had he managed to sell it? We never actually heard, of course, despite loud declarations of his intent. To this end I thought I'd contact those friendly people at Lib Dem head office to find out...

Unfortunately the rottweiler at the end of the phone could only badger me with "Why do you need to know?". For some reason the desirability of a political party being open and transparent seemed alien to him during our exchange. In the end he relented though and hinted I might get further if I tried the Commons. No direct number for Mr Campbell's office was forthcoming though. Those "friendly" Lib Dems, eh. Where did that reputation come from?

Then the mystery was revealed. A very pleasant-sounding and helpful young lady informed me it had been "given away". When? "Oh, very long time ago."

It turns out that a very long time ago is, in fact, at the beginning of the summer, back in May. The Jag was given away, to all but no fanfare, to the Myreton Motor Museum in Aberlady up in Ming's neck of the woods. Quite how it ranks amongst that collection remains to be seen, however, some of the museum's vintage classic cars dating back to the 19th century including an 1897 Arnold Benz, a Leon Bollee from 1898 and a 78-year-old Rolls-Royce. Not much older than Ming himself.

Beneficial benefits

Another great post from Laban on how benefits can be used to not only be compassionate to people but also to positively help them focus on what they can do to help themselves. I studied this model in the US and it has genuinely interesting potential over here. But, as Laban says, Blair bottled it when he sacked Fields.

Musings Whilst Abroad (an occasional series)

Whilst I've been around the world I've had a number of ideas I'd hoped to expand into lengthier blog posts. Now I'm just keen to get them down before I forget them.

My first is this. Many of us are, obviously, pleased and proud to try to offer decent universal healthcare in Britain. We would like this to continue.

How, though, is it right that those running the NHS benefit by offering a bad service? At the moment if it provides such terrible service that a patient feels they have no alternative but to spend hard-earned cash on going private, the NHS actually benefits. The hospital has fewer patients, less work to do and, consequently more time. Perversely, however, it will also have more money. It becomes better off if it does things contrary to what a patient wants! How can this drive improvements?

It's been a while. And a pretty eventful while at that. Safely returned from my visit to Belarus, the "last outpost of tyranny" in Europe, despite room searches whilst we were out, visits to collective farms, conversations with democracy campaigners and Police tractors! I also survived the alleged queues at Heathrow and managed a fantastic romantic week away in Venice. Hoping now to resume something approaching service at Trust People as we ponder the dying days of Blairism.