Friday, September 29, 2006

Are Americans unspeakably vile?... No, actually...

Liberty Cat asks this question in a recent blog post. And I must confess, on the face of a 65-34 vote in the US Senate and a 253-168 vote in the House of Representatives, one might easily draw that conclusion.

However, it is still the case that there are reasonable people on the other side of the pond, and this resolution, recently passed at the summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee is proof of that...

The following Resolution, submitted by Democrats Abroad was adopted on August 19, 2006, by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), at a meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

Submitted by: Michael A. Ceurvorst, Chair, Democrats Abroad with twenty + co-sponsors including four DNC Vice-chairs, seven state chairs and dozens of others.

TEXT OF TORTURE RESOLUTION Resolution condemns any incident of abuse of prisoners or the use of torture by any agent or agency of the United States.

WHEREAS, torture violates the U.S. Constitution, statutes, and core American beliefs in the dignity and integrity of each person that have always been essential to our system of government and way of life; and

WHEREAS, torture also violates a fundamental prohibition of current international law and specifically the Geneva Conventions, and its breach is considered a crime of universal jurisdiction; and

WHEREAS, torture is not a partisan concern and constitutes a violation that all Americans should resolutely oppose in principle and in practice;

WHEREAS, rejecting torture re-affirms fundamental American beliefs in the essential dignity of each human being, provides common ground with current and aspiring democracies around the world, and undercuts terrorist recruitment by reaffirming American commitment to human rights; and

WHEREAS, a failure to take a stand against torture and its practice by any agent or agency of our United States of America can be seen to jeopardize our system of values and governance; and

WHEREAS, numerous credible allegations of torture by agents or agencies of the United States await adequate investigation to establish accountability;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hereby condemns any incident of abuse of prisoners or the use of torture by any agent or agency of the United States; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the DNC reaffirms the importance of making human rights and the rule of law guiding forces for conduct by all agents and agencies of the government of the United States, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the DNC calls on all Americans to demand accountability for those who have demonstrably engaged in torture and those whose policies condoned, allowed, or encouraged the practice of torture and violation of international conventions.

It's only a pity that a minority of Democratic Senators and Congressmen found it appropriate to vote against Party policy...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Flame wars - an update...

Well, having just had a courteous exchange with Leah Darbyshire, I can't help feeling that the civilised option can work if we 'just give peace a chance'.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Flame wars - what are they good for?


It seems that the ongoing saga of the Darbyshires against the Liberal Democrats is continuing, and has been brought to my attention by an anonymous comment made in connection with my earlier (the fact that it's anonymous is kind of troubling, I admit...). So I thought that I would post a response as a comment. I don't know if Leah will publish it, but in case she doesn't, here it is for your consideration...

Leah,

It looks as though you and Robin are enjoying Singapore - it is a fascinating place... perhaps you might like to try a weekend in Kuching, Malaysia - fascinating place, cheap fares from Johor Bahru, nearby orangutan rehabilitation centre (they're insanely cute).

As for your response to my comments, the rock star/porn star question was intended to be a quirky compliment, mostly aimed at Robin, I should confess. Having spent twenty years as a Liberal Democrat (more dormant than active), I'm used to local organisers being rather ink-stained creatures who emerge into the light blinking. Robin wasn't, presumably isn't, like that, so came as a bit of a surprise. And as I tend to refer to myself as walrus rather than gazelle and admit to existential doubts about my own self-esteem in my blog, any comments you might make might reflect rather more badly on you than on me.

If I appear to have been taken in by TIB, it might be because she denied any attack, whereas your response was there on your blog for everyone to see. I tend to accept evidence rather than allegation. Naive maybe, but honourable nonetheless.

Finally, a small but important correction. I suggested that the comments about your relationship were 'less than well-suited to a political aggregated blog'. That doesn't mean unsuitable, although it does imply 'less than ideal'. That was, and remains my personal opinion, but I didn't suggest that you stop, merely ask whether, by including it in a forum read by clearly unsympathetic people, you wanted to leave it there. In the end, you chose to remove it, perhaps making my point somewhat valid.

I was merely trying to engineer an end to a messy and unpleasant 'flame war'. It clearly didn't work but if you had simply approached me, either via the blog or by private e-mail, we might have been able to reach a mutual understanding of each other's issues. But then, as this whole sorry saga has demonstrated, it's so much easier to attack each other.

One last request, gentle readers. Can everyone now leave the Darbyshires alone? Either they stop, or you do. The neutrals will side with whoever stops first (and some of the comments on both sides have been pretty hurtful). But we all have lives to get on with, don't we? Or is the fun of the battle blinding us to the reality that none of it matters that much? Just a thought...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

As the nights draw in...

... the prospect of the Regional Conference draws ever closer. Luckily, the Regional Conference Committee, chaired by the ever patient Alison Sanderson, is on the case, drawing up the agenda, organising guest speakers, stewarding, session chairs and all of the other minutiae that tend to go unnoticed unless they aren't actually done.

Alison also tolerates my presence and so, in return, I've offered to chair a session and look generally useful (this normally consists of wandering around looking worried but not actually doing very much). And so, if all goes according to schedule, I should be chairing the report back sessions from the MPs, MEP and Assembly Members. It's quite clever really, as I get to be prominent yet invisible at the same time (the attention will be on the elected ones, I presume).

Of course, the most important element of the Autumn Conference is that it also doubles as our Annual General Meeting and thus is the opportunity for Regional Conference delegates to decide whether or not to give those of us running again another chance to steer the Regional Party through the choppy seas of administration. Which in turn means more manifestos to write, should I choose to run for re-election...

So, for those of you eligible to come, mark Saturday, 18th November in your diary, and let us know that you're coming in advance (for registration details call the Regional Party office), and don't miss, amongst other things, an excellent fish and chip lunch. Oh yes, there'll be debates, a guest speaker, training sessions, a report back from the Regional Executive (and that'll be thrill a minute, I'm sure), plus a guest appearance from our illustrious Party President, Simon Hughes MP and a cast of hundreds. I'm not expecting a chorus line or a murder mystery, but you never know...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Oh no, I'm in danger of becoming serious!

Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration. I do know that my family are making 'worried' noises like, "You've sounded a bit miserable lately, why don't you lighten up a bit?", and, "Are you tired, your blog gives that impression?". Family, aren't they wonderful?

And perhaps they're right. The blog has been a bit serious of late, call it sombre. I've allowed the people around me to define my mood, and that isn't necessarily a good thing. These politician types are so serious, and it matters so much to them that it hurts. Most of my favourite moments revolve around the more frivolous (when I grow up, I want to be a wildly coloured butterfly...) and I operate so much better when I'm smiling (or ill, but that's a different matter...).

So, an open invitation to my colleagues. Try and make me happy, don't waste my time with stuff that isn't that important and do try and look as though you're enjoying it. In return, I'll be the eccentric bureaucrat that you actually need, crack jokes when they'll help and hum something cheerful even though I won't be aware that I'm doing it (it's a sign that I'm happy).

If I stop enjoying it, I'll find something else to do. Because, believe it or not, there is a world beyond politics, and most people outside seem to rub along somehow... if anyone has any ideas for things I could do (culture would be nice), why not let me know?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nation building and America - a philosophical disconnect

In recent weeks, the sheer scale of the failure of the West in terms of building what might be recognised as functioning democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq has become ever more painfully obvious. I've become suspicious that the problem lies with the American attitude to constructing a civil society, combined with the failure of Europe to provide an alternative example.

If you are genuinely intent on changing a nation for the better, you really do need to understand the social construct of that nation. Why does it favour democracy over dictatorship? Does religion play a greater or lesser role in cultural and social life? What factors impact on social cohesion? I sense that recent American administrations, especially Republican ones, have failed to grasp the importance of proper research, and in some cases, really don't care that much. After all, American democracy has proved to be such an example to the rest of us... with its inclusiveness (the amount spent by British political parties in 2005 wouldn't fund a gubernatorial race in California), transparency (voting machines with dubious codes, recounts decided at the pleasure of the Supreme Court rather than by actually counting ballot papers...) and plurality (how many different political parties have elected someone to the national parliament in the last fifty years?).

And yet the view is that a democracy must look vaguely familiar. This flies in the face of all of the evidence, and tends to be honoured more in the exception anyway. For example, Singapore is considered to be a democracy and it is, after a fashion. One party has been in power since independence, and tends to respond badly to even the most rudimentary challenge from a barely tolerated opposition. India is the world's largest democracy yet can be somewhat chaotic in terms of practice.

On the other hand, until very recently, the men of Appenzell in Switzerland met in the town square, swords in hand, to debate the issues of the day, and that was cantonal government. Democracy develops best when it has examples to be influenced by, when debate emerges from within, rather than by being imposed by outside forces.

If we must insist on invading a country to 'improve' it, we need to be far more honest about what we hope to achieve, and how we propose to do it. The debate over whether or not to invade Iraq was a farce, with both the Bush administration and the Blair government promoting different reasons for doing so depending on what polls showed to be popular from week to week. They failed to convince their own people as to their sincerity, so how did they think that the people of Afghanistan and Iraq were going to buy into the supposedly bright new future?

In the places where democracy has flourished in the past two decades, there has either been a tradition of democratic government (most of Eastern Europe post-1989 and South America come to mind) or democracy has come about after the emergence of popular movements. In the latter case, it tends to emerge slowly, as in Jordan and other more liberal Middle Eastern nations.

However democracy emerges though, it tends to do best where the local populace have a genuine say in how it is constructed, rather than where they have a model imposed upon them by an outside, rather unsympathetic force. And that is where Europe needs to do more. If we are to rely on the Americans for muscle, then we must provide the means to build viable, representative civil societies, teaching people the basic building blocks of democracy, encouraging diversity of the press, helping to build education systems for the young, and providing them an example, to follow or not according to local taste. Why not provide university education to the potential leadership of tomorrow, so that they can go back to their countries and work to build freer communities. We used to do that quite successfully in the days leading up to independence in our former colonies with, admittedly, mixed results.

But most of all, we have to set an example in the way we manage our democracy. I firmly believe that one of the key reasons for the fall of the Soviet Union was the increasing inability of the Communist Party to suppress the messages coming from the West. Once it became clear that the democracies were not the terrible places that Poles, Rumanians and Ukrainians had been told to expect, expectations emerged that the control economies could never meet.

By your actions, ye shall be judged, and not necessarily by the people you might expect. The building of civil societies isn't glamorous, and it isn't quick. But in the long run, it is cheaper, safer and more likely to protect our people from the threat of terrorism. Not so much a war on terror as a campaign against ignorance, conformity and oppression...

Summer is over... at last it's time to celebrate!

I have had the dubious privilege for supporting my beloved martlets for more than thirty years, one of the cursed collection of sporting teams which suffer my backing with more forbearance than I deserve.

However, days like today make it worthwhile, as Sussex County Cricket Club swept to a thoroughly deserved County Championship, slaughtering Nottinghamshire by an innings and 245 runs as Trent Bridge... this is cricket we're talking about, for the benefit of those who are wondering what I'm on about. When Sussex won the title in 2003, the Wisden headline was '164 years of hurt, never stopped believing' and I have to admit that I had begun to despair of ever celebrating the glory of victory.

The star? Who else but Mushtaq Ahmed, apparently not good enough to play for his country yet perfectly capable of destroying a series of opposition batting line-ups in spite of a collection of strains, muscle pulls and other ailments that would have left most Premiership footballers in the treatment room for months.

But let's not fail to recognise Chris Adams, Michael Yardy, Jason Lewry and so many others whose efforts led to our best season ever, with the C&G Trophy to add to the cabinet. If only I had the time to go and take in a day or two... maybe next season...

The problem with so-called politicians...

Alright, this is going to come across as a mite naive but what the hell...

As one of the political theatre's more delicate actors (albeit more understudy than star), the one thing that really bothers me is the way that some people seem to think that it is better to undermine others rather than earn credibility themselves. I accept that it is probably easier (credibility is hard to gain, and remarkably easy to lose), but the collateral damage is often unfortunate, to say the least, and often affects those who least deserve it.

In the public sphere, attacks on politicians hurt families, loved ones and friends, and are often done in such a way as to cause maximum humiliation. Alright, politicians need thick skins but those around them are often unused to the glare of publicity and of guilt by association. They often don't choose public life and, in some cases, were never really consulted on the subject in advance. How many politicians actually ask their spouses whether they want them to become elected officials, with all the impact this can have on family life? Not enough, I fear. And what effect does it have on the prevailing political culture?

If you thought that your private life was likely to become the subject of prurient investigation by the tabloid press, wouldn't you rather go into commerce, where your private life is much more your own affair? And does the steady drip, drip, drip of poison encourage the average citizen to respect and trust their politicians? I don't think it does. Perhaps voters get the politicians they deserve...

And yet it can be worse within your own political family. The constant fight for competing agendas, personal or political, factional or philosophical, can leave a trail of emotional corpses, a fact often forgotten in the heat of battle. And all this by people who are supposed to be on your side! Politics is, at the highest levels, a game played by the hugely ambitious, with a long term goal of exercising power, regardless of the forum. The concepts of honour and principle are usually early victims and for the rest of us, realisation of this can become all too dispiriting, and it is no wonder that the burnout and dropout rates are sizeable.

Sometimes, in my darker moments, I find myself wondering if some of my colleagues have forgotten why we seek power in the first place. Something to think about, perhaps?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

For you, Herr Valladares, ze conference is over...

Unfortunately, due to a rather unfortunate lack of leave (yes, well, all of the trips I've taken thus far this year might account for that...), I am home, for good.

It's been, as far as I'm concerned, a pretty good conference. The tax debate was a welcome sign of the economic maturity of the Party, and I renewed a series of old acquaintances, some of which have led to a new appointment (subject to ratification, of course).

I have had the pleasure of acting as Returning Officer for the European Parliamentary selections for the South East Euro Region on the past two occasions (in 1998 and 2002/03) and was rather delighted to be asked if I would be available to perform an encore. Naturally, my current colleagues on the English Candidates Committee will have to approve this in due course, but I'm optimistic that they will.

I spent most of this afternoon debating positive action with my friend, Jo, from Beckenham. She argues the position fron the perspective of an ambitious candidate, I from the perspective of someone whose role is to create and maintain a level playing field within our current selection rules. We finally agreed that, regardless of what route we take in order to get more women and ethnic minority parliamentarians, there is going to come a point when our principles become contradictory. I suppose that it is a luxury that stems from not wanting to get elected that allows me to be somewhat uncomfortable with the prospect.

On the downside, a confidence I had shared was leaked, somewhat to my detriment. I am saddened that someone should choose to do such a thing, especially as I believed myself to be acting entirely honourably. Clearly, the same people who didn't believe that last year still haven't got the message. Curious, really... but I'm guessing that this won't go away...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

'Liberal Bureaucracy' goes transatlantic!

No, I'm not getting on an aeroplane bound for some far flung, exotic location in the Americas, tempting though it might be. It is with great pleasure that I welcome any American readers who might have linked to this via the website of Americans for Democratic Action.

I've been a rather distant member of the ADA family for fifteen years now and, whilst I would be considered a mite hawkish by the mainstream standards of the organisation, I have tremendous respect for their knowledge, expertise and warmth. They truly care about their country and the people in it, and share a common sense that we have to create equality of opportunity in order to truly succeed as a nation.


So, on with the medley, and keep in touch!

A year later, more warm words, but real progress?

I've already indicated that I had been unimpressed by the tenor of the motion scheduled for consideration on equality and diversity issues. And now, gentle reader, I have to report that the debate which followed was, frankly, equally unconvincing.

We are promised greater resourcing for staff to address these issues, yet the Federal Treasurer had, the previous day, indicated that this would be "very difficult". I sympathise with him on that, knowing that all three political parties have difficulties in funding current activities, let alone additional mandates.

The first amendment, from Surrey East, sought to remove language that I had created for the motion debated in Harrogate. If it had subsequently been argued that the idea that ethnicity or gender of the chosen candidate be a factor in deciding between two equally worthy options as to whether central support and funding would be available, they probably wouldn't have tried to remove it at all. Alas, there are some who would try to use the concept and torture it beyond mercy. Fortunately, it fell.

The second amendment, requesting that "our top target seats at the next general election include a fair proportion of ethnic minority and women candidates", is, I'm afraid, meaningless and I am disappointed, although unsurprised, that it was successfully passed. After all, it came with the imprimatur of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats... which, dear Federal Conference, doesn't actually make it any good.

Having now created a sense that something will happen, I have to confess that it almost certainly won't. Good prospects are already selecting, and, given that Local Parties are entirely sovereign in terms of who they select, how do you make this particular dream come true? In two years time, when disenchantment has set in, this particular chicken will come home to roost.

Effectively, any progress on the whole issue of getting more women, and more ethnic minority Liberal Democrats elected as parliamentarians is now dependent on the goodwill of the leadership. We must now effectively trust them to do the right thing, adhering to our shared liberal values whilst doing so. My question is, do they want to make a difference, or be seen to be trying to do so? And that, my friends, is the crux of the dilemma.

But never mind, I've got a tax debate to get to, and we all know how much I love those...

Monday, September 18, 2006

To Brighton, where a new blog emperor is crowned...

To Brighton for the opening salvoes of the Autumn Federal Conference. For reasons best known to myself, I originally decided not to book a hotel room in Brighton, having found the prices being quoted a mite extreme even for my somewhat bourgeois taste. However, on discovering that English Candidates Committee would meet at 9.30 on Sunday morning, I realised that I had no urge to get up at 6 a.m. to get there in good time. So I booked a room in the Hilton for Saturday night and got an astonishing reasonable rate.

Sunday saw, apart from the excitement of English Candidates Committee, where I provide a touch of humour (not always a good thing) and a bit of colour (I still like the shirt...), a series of technical debates related to internal Party matters. Quite dull, particularly to campaigners and policy wonks, but nonetheless important. I had been tapped on the shoulder earlier in the week to ask a question on staffing numbers and staff diversity which, whilst I was actually interested in the answer, I can't help feeling was an opening shot in someone else's campaign strategy. So I should thank those who set me up... and for giving me a chance to test the brightness and contrast settings for the monitors on stage.

The evening saw the Lib Dem Blog of the Year award ceremony, with the august figure of Iain Dale in attendance. Lynne Featherstone made the presentation of the award, looking a little like the Lara Croft of Lib Dem blogging (check out the picture for yourself on the Party website). I'm not quite certain what brought that image to mind, but there you go... There was even a gold envelope, which I thought was quite a nice touch.

The winner? Stephen Tall, from Oxford. He does write very well, and isn't afraid to court controversy or lead the agenda, and he speaks well too.
The overall quality of the top six really should encourage the rest of us to 'up our game' a bit, although I'll try not to overreach myself. But now it's time for bed, and my own at that. Back to Brighton tomorrow, no, make that today, though for more Liberal Democracy...

Friday, September 15, 2006

A week in the life of someone else's Local Party

One of the things about being a self-acknowledged faceless bureaucrat is people assume that you understand 'stuff'. And so I found myself in Bromley and Beckenham this week, helping the two respective Local Parties (Bromley & Chislehurst and Beckenham), grope through the minefield that is Local Party boundaries in order to ascertain what is the best configuration for the future of Liberal Democracy in the London Borough of Bromley.

Following the report of the Boundary Commission, a new seat of Lewisham West & Penge has been created, which includes part of the old seat of Lewisham West and part of Beckenham. The complication is that the three Lewisham seats of old were combined under one borough-wide Local Party. The three Bromley seats were all standalone constituency-based Local Parties.

My understanding of the Electoral Commission's rules for Local Parties is that they must either be, in London at least, either collections of whole constituencies or whole boroughs. Thus, the problem becomes clear. The three Beckenham wards can only remain connected to the remainder of Bromley if the three new constituency parties (Beckenham, Bromley & Chislehurst and Orpington) are willing to come together to form a borough-wide Local Party for Bromley Borough. Otherwise, either Lewisham Borough Liberal Democrats have to absorb the three Bromley wards, or let go of the four Lewisham wards to allow the formation of a new Lewisham West & Penge Local Party.

Now for those of you who are not connoisseurs of South East London politics, you might wonder why any of this matters. However, for those of you who are more in the picture, you will realise that Lewisham West & Penge is a rather interesting seat, in that it is a potential Labour vs. Liberal Democrat battleground, so organisation is vital.

So to be at the heart of the debate was fascinating, especially after I was asked to chair the Beckenham meeting. At this juncture, it would be improper to indicate what the outcome was, especially as the final decision lies on the hands of the Regional Party, but it was intriguing to see what motivates local activists and the extent to which the needs of coordinated campaigning were at the forefront of discussion.

Regardless of the result though, it will be interesting to see how any new structure develops, and I suspect that I'll be an occasional visitor to that part of suburban south-east London in the coming months to lend my support where it is useful.

We're all recognition junkies now...

Much excitement in the Lib Dem corner of the blogosphere after Iain Dale's announcement of his top 100 Lib Dem blogs. Modesty forbids me from commenting on my rather surprising ranking but, needless to say, I wouldn't have put myself on the left hand page (and possibly not the right hand one, either...). So have a peek, you might learn something, and discover some very good writing too...

Whilst the idea that Lib Dems should be getting worked up about what a Tory thinks of us is, on the face of it, somewhat absurd, I would suggest that it is a mark of the respect that many of us have for him and his achievements in the field of political publishing that causes us to take his opinions so seriously.

Politico's was a laudable attempt to broaden interest in something other than thirty-second, red-top headline politics and, as someone who firmly believes in the concept of an informed, participatory democracy (whilst winning elections is nice, winning the argument is much more satisfying), I have a sneaking hope that he made some money out of it too (don't tell me Iain, remember, I work for Revenue & Customs!).

As for his blog, I may not agree with him all the time (I'm a Liberal Democrat, duh...), but his recognition factor within the wider political blogosphere and beyond says something for his ability to break stories and comment in an articulate way on issues that engage the reader.

It's a good thing that Iain will be attending the Lib Dem Blog of the Year Award ceremony tomorrow evening. I'll be there, drink in hand to toast the winner... I might even buy Iain a drink, if he's willing to accept sustenance from one of those evil Lib Dem types!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Diversity and equality - missing the point?

I feel kind of bad about returning to this topic but, regretfully, have little choice it would appear. I've already noted the lack of actual content of the motion, and now I have to admit to being somewhat depressed about the quality of the response.

EMLD (Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats) and the EMETF (Ethnic Minority Election Task Force) are touting their own amendment which includes the following gems:

Delete lines 10 to 11 and replace with

Conference urges all individual members, all local Parties and every section of the Liberal Democrat organisation to help recruit, encourage, mentor , support and select candidates from the under represented groups, and in particular visible (my emphasis) ethnic minority and women candidates for the Westminster Parliament, the Greater London Assembly and Local Councils.


I loathe the word visible. I'm an ethnic minority, albeit not of the heart on sleeve variety. Am I to be discriminated against because I'm not visible, although my surname marks me out as anything but white, anglo-saxon and protestant? Nought out of three ain't bad... but apparently not good enough to merit support...

Oh, but how about this...

Delete to end of line 27

Replace with

Furthermore conference urges State and Regional parties to sign up to the principle of equality in representation and to commit to implementing procedures which will ensure the chances of ethnic minority and women candidates being discriminated against are minimised.


What on earth does this mean? Are we to presume that the candidate approval process and the selection rules militate against ethnic minority candidates? For the record, the procedures don't. So are we supposed to roll out diversity awareness training to our members? I'm really sorry, but whining that life is unfair and asking your oppressors to come up with a solution is lame, in the extreme.

After line 32 add

Conference calls on the Leadership and the Campaigns Department to produce a strategy for speeding up the election of ethnic minority MPs followed by the election of MPs from other under groups. In particular conference asks that our top 100 target seats in the next general election include a fair proportion of ethnic minority and women candidates so as to reflect the community we serve.


Furthermore conference calls for any seats vacated by Liberal Democrats MPs at the next general election to be reserved for ethnic minority and women candidates.

The first paragraph here is well-meaning but dangerous. If the vast majority of our top 100 target seats are in areas where the ethnic minority population is below 5%, as I thoroughly expect them to be, is this a demand for, effectively, less ethnic minority candidates? As for the second paragraph, words fail me. Are you seriously proposing restrictive lists for certain constituencies? Didn't you learn anything from Blaenau Gwent? If even the massed control freaks of the Labour Party wouldn't wear it, what chance do you really think you have of persuading a bunch of, whisper it cautiously, liberals?

Sometimes I despair, I really do...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Where in the world was Mark Valladares?

It seems that everyone is generating maps to show where they've been so I thought I might join in...



create your own visited country map
or check our Venice travel guide

There are some quirky omissions, and I'm working on the gaps, so it might look quite different in a few years...

Monday, September 04, 2006

When satire becomes reality... or does it?

Last month, in one of my vitriolic moments, I wrote a piece suggesting some of the things that Cameron's shiny new Conservative party could apologise for. I was only joking... at least, I thought so until I read my Guardian this morning and found this article..

As a piece of politics, it's actually pretty clever. In 1997, a significant number of civil servants were enthused by Labour's promises to improve the civil service and government in general. In the years since then, disillusion has rather set in as it has become apparent that Tony Blair doesn't really like us that much. Many such individuals are looking for a political party that they can put their faith in, and I occasionally wish that my gallant Liberal Democrats were rather more considerate of the feelings of my fellow bureaucrats (if only Party spokesperson were half as considerate towards civil servants as they are towards nurses, doctors, policeman etc... deep sigh...).

Unfortunately, many of us have reasonably sharp memories of the beggars auction that took place not so long ago about the number of civil service jobs. My recollection is of an unedifying rush to promise more job losses than the number offered by Her Majesty's loyal opposition. There is a paper, apparently, although I could only find this report on the Conservative Party's website.
As you can see, it seems to focus entirely on the 'touchy-feely' bits of the public sector yet avoids the fundamental question, "What sort of public sector do we want and how do we manage and fund it?" I'm not expecting to get an answer that I'll like...