Saturday, September 30, 2006

David Cameron Launches Blog

Check out the new David Cameron blog right here. Not sure how this will play out or even whether it will last, but there are some pretty interesting videos.

I don't know how I feel about the blogging from around the house routine. I understand the desire to engage with a new audience, but I think just blogging achieves that. It feels a little contrived to be on your webcam at the sink. I'm assuming that Cameron has a home office (you'd hope so). If that is the case then why doesn't he blog from his desk? Is he that busy that the only time he can blog is when he's washing up? And who's holding the camera? I'm also not really comfortable being this close to the life of a politician. It's taking personality politics to a whole new level. Maybe we can sponsor a "take your blog to work day".

The comments section is very interesting and I hope that it becomes a true forum for debate. It should be treated no differently from an appearance in a local town hall.

In terms of clear difference, this is the kind of communication that would be almost impossible for Gordon Brown to pull off, so to that extent it's a winner already.

1963 Original Footage Of The JFK Assassination

This is an incredibly interesting video. It is the moment at which Walter Cronkite broke into a US TV show to announce that the President had been shot.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Look What Single Issue Campaigning Will Do To You

This picture was posted today on the world's best celebrity news website Oh No They Didn't. Apparently Brigitte Bardot turned 72 yesterday. 20 years of animal rights activism has not been kind.

The Future Of British Campaign Ads

Television advertising in UK general elections is tightly controlled. This is very different from countries such as the US, where television advertising is only constrained by the size of the candidate's pocket. However, even in such a controlled environment, there have been some quite memorable broacasts over the years, from "Jennifer's Ear" to "Kinnock: The Movie" (a detailed history can be found here). Times are changing though and campaign ads of the future will take place on blogs like this and in your inbox.

The rise of sites such as Google Video and You Tube point towards a future in which online advertising becomes much more significant, both on a national and local level. Anyone with a camcorder and a copy of Apple's iMovie could produce a 30second commercial that will live or die on the strength of the idea. Couple this with the countless pressure groups who will be able to appeal directly to the electorate at the next election and a brave new world is upon us.

In the US, the last presidential election witnessed the rise of online pressure groups that utilised new media distribution to get their message out. MoveOn.Org and Swift Boat Veterans For Truth grew virally and made a terrific impact on the political landscape. In the US, this has led to a fracturing of the message. The key question for candidates is how they get their message out and break through the clutter.

The impact on the UK is likely to be quite different. We do not experience anything like the bombardment of political messages that is common in the US. It is highly unlikely that the rules relating to advertising on terrestrial television will change and so the internet will play a magnified role. The power of online ads is not necessarily their ability to influence voters, but the ability to influence the regular media, setting the tone and focus of debate.

What this means for political parties is that they need strong, targeted creative that viewers want to pass on. The internet is not a passive medium and poor execution will end up in the email trash can. Fundamentally, this means taking more risks. The winners will be those that are fun, cheeky and quirky. The problem for the main parties is that single issue groups will be much better placed to take advantage of this dynamic.

So what does this mean for us? Well I'm personally looking forward to the Iraq Veterans For Truth campaign against the current Labour government. For you, it means you might want to brush up on your editing skills and buy a new camcorder.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Jack Straw's Deputy Leadership Bid Up In Smoke

BBC Question Time tonight was quite revealing for poor old Jack Straw. I'm sure in the final analysis he will regret taking part in the show. He refused to answer the question of whether he's going to stand for the post of Deputy Leader because he hasn't made up his mind. He then took a real pounding on the Iraq question. For the other Deputy Leadership challengers, it is quite clear where his weakness is. He was instrumental in taking us into Iraq and will be forever tied to that poor decision making process.

Lib Dem Jenny Tonge came up with the best quote when she said "I've never heard anyone dig so hard and so deep." I think she summed it up perfectly. Straw's campaign might be over before it's even started.

What Sort Of Political Creature Are You?

Check out the smallest political quiz in the world here. It places you on a spectrum of Left/Right Statist/Libertarian. Very interesting.

The Whole World Has Gone Crazy

For those of you that don't watch The Daily Show, it is the second funniest programme in the world behind The Colbert Report. A mock news show, they manage to get fantastic guests. Here is footage from earlier this week of President Musharraf taking part in the show. Why on earth?

On Yer Bike Prezza

"Tony Blair started his speech by saying thank you and I am starting mine by saying sorry." That's how Prezza began his speech today, tackling his tough year head on with an apology. Well that's alright then. Don't worry about your abuse of office, the huge salary you are paid for doing nothing, your countless perks and your minimal contribution. See here for my views on political apologies.

It was a bit of an odd speech, which is not really surprising. He has a tremendous knack of saying the longest sentences known to man. By the end of them he's breathless and you're confused.

At least he finally confirmed that he is standing down. A little bit of a pointless thing to say since about 30 of his colleagues have already decided to run against him.

Good riddance.

A Rather Slippery Character

The Guardian is reporting that Alan Johnson is bowing out of the Labour leadership race and has decided to support Gordon Brown. The bit I love in the article is this:
The gossip is that Mr Johnson has decided against challenging the chancellor for the top job, but does not want to say so until Gordon has placed a friendly phone call.

I love the idea of him not officially standing down until Gordon calls him and says nice things. How on earth would that conversation go?

Download the audio here.

"Er, hi Alan it's Gordon"
"Gordon Brown"
"Oh Gordon. What a pleasant surprise."
"Yes... well Alan I wanted to say how much I admire you"
"Oh yes. I've watched you often in Cabinet meetings and can't help but enjoy your clever comments and tales of fun from your days as a posty."
"Go on..."
"Well. I've, uh, heard from a friend of mine that you were thinking of running for leader."
"Uh huh."
"I was sort of hoping you wouldn't. We could be such good friends..."
"Uh huh"
"...and I was thinking of offering you the role of Home Secretary."
"Oh dear. I think that's the kettle."
"Did I say Home Secretary. I meant Chancellor"
"Excellent. Put it in writing and we can chat some more tomorrow. Thanks Gordy"
"Uh thanks."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thanks For Coming

The blog has been up and running now since Sunday and I wanted to thank everyone for visiting. Any suggestions will be warmly received and I hope you come back.

A Limp Balloon

The Labour Party Conference has lost some of its zing. If anything, the air has been taken out of it by Tony Blair's performance yesterday. Today was a little bit of a phony war. Some big names spoke, but nothing of any note was learned. I think everyone's in shock, thinks Tony is sticking around for a bit and can't identify the obvious challenger for Brown. Give it two weeks back in Westminster and the fun will start again.

Two Cheeks Of the Same Arse

I'm not sure who first said it, but it was repeated on the Matthew Parris Polcast here. I just couldn't resist.

Don't Outstay Your Welcome

Like the worst kind of house guest, Tony Blair has decided that his great reception yesterday means that he can stay a little longer. The BBC is reporting claims from Alan Johnson that Blair could be around until next summer. Is this real or is this just designed to get under Gordon's skin?

I found some good advice here about politely getting rid of people who do stay a bit longer than you'd like. Here are some great phrases that senior colleagues could use with Blair:
  • ‘‘What’s for dinner?’ Hahahahahaha. Oh, you crack me up. Though, it is getting late. It was great seeing you again. I’ll just get your things.’
  • ‘Oh! Look at the time. We promised John’s mother [best friend, minister, piano teacher] we’d stop by for coffee this evening. I’ll just get your things.’
  • ‘Goodness, we’ve kept you long enough. We have cleaning up to do, and I have a lot of work to get to this evening. Oh, no! Please don’t worry about helping! It was such a pleasure to see you. I’ll just get your things.’

The Bitter Labour Underbelly

I have just finished reading Michael Meacher's article in the Guardian online and I have to say that it is the worst bit of old labour nonsense that I've had the misfortune to read in some time. The only bit I agree with is this:
"A centre-left programme of this kind would, I believe, transform Labour's election prospects. If enough people vote for a candidate with those values in the forthcoming leadership election, we can make it a reality."
Can anyone else hear the staples that hold the Labour Party together beginning to tear. Let the ideological battles commence.

Will The Labour Party Invite Bush in Two Years Time?

Clinton really is the political equivalent of a Hollywood star. Labour delegates are incredibly excited about his speech today and it will be standing room only in the conference hall. If there wasn't a dry eye in the house yesterday, today there won't be a dry seat. This, despite the fact that slick willy holds no political office and has become something of a curiosity in his own country, running around with the current president's father raising money for various charities.

While the former president is likely to receive a standing ovation, the incumbent, Bush, would probably need an armed guard to make his way into the room. Yet Bush has been Tony Blair's closest international political ally for the last six years.

Gordon Brown hasn't given any indication that he will move away from Blair's close relationship with Bush and so I'm looking forward to Bush's speech to the Labour Party Conference in 2008.

Obituries, Eulogies and Elegies For Blair

It hasn't taken long for people to start reminiscing, with tears in their eyes, about the departure of Tony Blair. The stories, the mischief and the great speeches are all fodder for article after article written about life without Tony. The only problem is that he hasn't gone yet. He could be around for months. I wonder if we'll all be as happy after Christmas when he is still here and making that special grimacing face on Sunday morning television. You know the one I mean. It's his "We need to focus on the task at hand" face.

Obituries are being written a little too soon and the eulogising has taken over the news. In that spirit, I thought I would write a little elegy (not very good, but poetry never was my strong point).

Tony we might quite miss you
You've led us through some strife
You almost made friends with Gordon
Except for your crazy wife

You're leaving a sinking party
They're falling on hard times
Not quite sure which direction
Takes them away from your war crimes

So please make sure you sign up now
To all those business offers
Shady house deals and dodgy loans
Alone won't fill the coffers

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Blair'll Be Back...

You are going to hear it here first. The Labour Party will have Tony Blair as leader again. Maybe not next year or the year after, but don't count him out yet. Stranger things have happened in politics.

Labour Party Finds A Dream Ticket

In a shocking U-turn, the Labour Party has finally identified a dream ticket for the next general election.

Against a backdrop of sniping and nastiness, Labour activists have called for Tony Blair to stand against Gordon Brown and for John Prescott to be named as his Deputy.

One Labour Party activist expressed a view held by many, "Even though Gordon is odds on favourite to win right now, that young lad Tony could be the best bet to win the next general election. He comes with the baggage of John Prescott, but even that would be preferable to having Harriet Harman."

Sources close to the Chancellor could not be reached for comment.

The Conference Hall From Another Dimension

There are two Labour Party Conferences going on this week. The one happening in the rather large room and the other taking place everywhere else. There are some links between the two worlds and an occasional tip of the cap to what is happening there. One seems to be stuck in the past while the other fights about the future. Very strange.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why So Many Labour Bridesmaids?

One thing that I have been struggling to figure out is why there are so many candidates for the post of Deputy Leader. Is it simply that they are too scared to run for the top job? Is Gordon that much of a certainty for the role of PM?

Whatever the answer, I cannot believe that they have posed for this ridiculous photograph. Whatever next?

Gordon Brown's Mea Culpa

Wikipedia defines 'Mea Culpa' as "a Latin phrase that translates into English as "my fault", or "my own fault". Gordon didn't break out his schoolboy Latin today, but he may as well.

Modern politics has become a lesson in the power of apology and it has been used by characters great and small to atone for their various sins. Today was Gordon's turn to apologise for the disagreements he has had with Tony Blair and the fact that they may have "distracted from what matters". That is simply not good enough.

Shame on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown if they have ever been distracted by their petty rivalry. I hope that Labour party members hold both to a higher standard and treat Gordon accordingly. A man so easily distracted should not be put in charge of our nuclear deterrant (whatever form that takes).

Many will argue that all politicians are caught up in the petty power plays that take place behind closed doors, but that doesn't make it right and it certainly shouldn't lead them to take their eye off the ball. We must demand more.

On Your Marks, Get Set, Spin

I love the post-speech spin-fest. You have all of the usual suspects coming out of the woodwork to lie in a bold-faced mannner about the job that their man has done.

It really is a pleasure to see Neil Kinnock come out so strongly for Gordon Brown. What well paid job do you think he's after?

The Verdict On Brown

Well, as I posted earlier today, it was never going to be a surprising speech was it? The amount of pre-selling, previewing, leaking and spinning meant that we knew pretty much the entire thing before he gave it. The content was obvious and there were not the big shock policy moves that some commentators had been predicting. The key for Gordon was how he delivered it.

My take on it was that he did a reasonable job, but didn't knock the cover off the ball. There was a real opportunity there for him to kill any hint of a leadership contest before it even began, but this was not how it played out. I would imagine that other candidates will feel very confident that they can take him on after that performance.

Is it just me or is he incapable of smiling without it looking false? His nerves were also getting the better of him as he sweated profusely throughout.

On the plus side he did manage to make some pretty good comments about his and Blair's relationship. I wonder if these were pre-screened with Tony's team?

Interesting to see how the other speeches play out this week. Miliband and Johnson speak on Wednesday and Reid speaks on Thursday. I think we'll be able to judge a lot about the leadership race by the extent to which the other potential runners and riders stick to their briefs. I doubt that anyone else will say that they are "relishing" the opportunity to take on Cameron, but you never know.

Good to see that everyone is sticking to discussing policy. Has there ever been a conference in which the actual policy and shadow policy were presented by members of the same party?

Verdict: B-

What Would Freud Say?

The Independent is reporting that supporters of the Prime Minister would like to see a 'dream ticket' of Johnson and Reid. 'Dream ticket'? What kind of horrendous dreams are Blairite members of the government having?

The conference has been billed as being about policy, but the knives are clearly being sharpened.

Why Bother Giving the Speech?

I'm not sure that there is any point giving your speech to your party conference if you are going to brief and leak the whole thing ahead of time. I love comments from the press like "He will talk about his family, globalisation and his vision for the future". They then go on to quote verbatim from Gordon's actual notes. Fine, now we don't have to bother listening to the tedious rubbish and you don't need to give it. Is that what you call a win-win?

Labour Lovelies

The Sun is running a Labour Party Conference story that highlights the "talent" in the Labour Party. Two things irritate me about this article. The first is why on earth it is even covered and the second is the evident lack of talent.

BBC Breakfast News Is Terrible

Is there anything more ridiculous on TV than BBC Breakfast News. What an odd mix of real news and absolute rubbish. I'm not convinced that the whole GMTV-style couch works for this format.

When did BBC News begin to be dominated by 'human interest' stories that are of no actual interest to anyone but the humans involved?

Message to the BBC - There is a lot of real news. Stop filling up the show with utter crap. Police dog trainees? Fried worms? What?

It's Not Easy Bein' Green

But it is definitely funny. I have just been listening to yesterday's Westminster Hour on Radio 4. It was a real pleasure to listen to Principal Speaker, Keith Taylor, talk about the Green Party's manifesto. I laughed and laughed. I only hope that having stolen their manifesto pledge to measure more than GDP, Cameron doesn't try to adopt their Citizen's Income.

Will The Labour Party Conference Be This Much Fun?

This is a brilliant clip of two crazy politicians behaving like... crazy politicians. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Charles Loves Him Really

The picture on the left was taken in happier times. The good old days when Charles Clarke and Gordon Brown were great friends. False smiles and fake laughs were the order of the day back then. Will they ever return to that level of closeness?

I think the answer is no, but that hasn't stopped Charles Clarke apologising for the personal statements he made about Gordon earlier in the month.

The BBC is reporting that Clarke apologised tonight at a Fabian Society fringe meeting. He claims that he did not behave in the "best and most advised way". Er, that's not an apology. That's a... well I don't know what it is, but it certainly isn't sorry. In any event, I don't think you can apologise easily for saying that someone is a "control freak" and that they would have to prove their fitness to lead the country.

I once told my girlfriend that she did indeed look fat in the outfit she was wearing. Now this is arguably a lesser offence than calling someone out in the national media, but I certainly had to apologise a little harder than "my love, maybe that wasn't the best and most advised way to behave". I think she would have clipped me around the ear.

Charles, try flowers, dinner and some Barry White.
Gordon, please give him a chance

Big Day Tomorrow

Do you think that Gordon is getting a full night of sleep tonight or is he up late, pacing the house, hoping and praying that it all goes well for him?

I can't imagine that the speech will be anything other than tedious, slow and delivered in his normal miserable tone.

I've laughed all week at some of the speeches he's given in the past. The jargon is almost legendary. Here's hoping (for his sake) that he has a better speech writer tomorrow.

A senior minister quoted in the Sunday Mirror said, "Gordon knows the speech is the most important he has ever made. It will cover every major issue - from the NHS and education to immigration and the war on terror. It will leave no one in any doubt they are watching Britain's next Prime Minister." Blah, blah, blah. Britain's next Prime Minister or another almost could have been?

Have Your Say And Other Lies

Modern politics is a giant exercise in pretending that those from the grass roots actually have a say.

Check out Labour's current website here and you will see their latest attempt at including the rank and file. "Why are you a Labour supporter?" I can't help but wonder who in their right mind would bother to enter a reason. Clearly the editor's pen has impacted the ones that are shown:

Chris Woods says "My children's education has been revolutionised."
Jenny Philcox from Bracknell says "Tony Blair's vision in health, education,welfare and country defences."
Roger Boniface from Hailsham says "only Labour can improve the lives of ordinary people."

Are these real?

Grief Makes Me Human

I wonder how many more stories are going to come out in the coming months about the trials and tribulations that our leading politicians have been through. It makes them more human, doesn't it?

Spin has been taken to a new low level. Gordon Brown was very forthright two weeks ago to Sky News about his own personal tragedy, the death of his daughter, and this week we have John Hutton pouring his heart out to the Sunday Times about the death of his father. This all comes on the back of news reports about senior members of the Department of Health receiving counseling to make them more "emotionally literate". I cannot believe the depths to which we are sinking.

I long for the days when attempts to tug at our heartstrings were focused on improving our lives rather than unburdening the minds of politicians. We all go through personal tragedy, but what happened to keeping it to ourselves? The stiff upper lip? Soldiering On?

Is all of this emotion real or just a coincidence that the offices of Prime Minister and deputy are up for grabs

You Are What You Cook

Great article on the BBC website that goes through the recipes that some leading politicians submitted for a charity cookbook. I thought it might be interesting to analyse these choices (not that the politicians probably came up with these themselves) and see what they say about the man.

Tony Blair - All in one sponge cake
I can only think that this is a metaphor for the way he treats the British people. All things to all people, but with a soft and generally unsatisfactory centre that is quite jammy.

Menzies Campbell - Smoked haddock pie
The fisheries global information system gives the identifying marks of the haddock as: palatine teeth lacking, chin barbel rather small, lower jaw shorter than upper. Sounds about right.

David Cameron - Sausage and pasta combination
This might be the best one. His was turned down because the Italian section was already full. Sometimes it isn't a good idea just to follow the popular crowd.

Not sure what John Major entered, but I think pea soup would have been appropriate. Prescott didn't enter one, but I think he enjoys apple pie in the privacy of his office - wink, wink.

Gordon Brown's Near Miss

I just saw this on YouTube and think it is almost exactly what is going to happen to poor old Gordon.

Disillusionment Will Continue

The leader in The Observer today makes some interesting points:

"Young people in particular seem disinclined to join the party or to express a preference at all. Only 45 per cent of voters aged 18-24 turned out in last year's election. This is worrying for all parties, but most of all for Labour. Apathy on polling day also amplifies voices of protest.

"Addressing a generation uninspired by party politics must be central to Labour's strategy, not because young people deserve more attention than their elders, but because their scepticism forces the party to say something imaginative about the future instead of simply advertising its achievements so far."

I think politicians need to realise that young people are never going to vote in greater numbers. They don't talk to us. The issues we care about cannot be solved at a national level and they fuck up the things that they can potentially solve. Couple this with the fact that our voting system is a national disgrace and I'm surprised that anyone bothers to vote at all.

John Reid Has Gone Mad

The country is going insane. That is the first and definitely not the last time that I will write that sentence in this blog.

Check out this article in the News of the World. John Reid is "going to rip up the British justice system and start again —and he wants YOUR help."

Sounds like a brilliant plan to me. Let's throw hundreds of years of experience out of the window and start again. While we are at it, why don't we get a bunch of unqualified morons to re-write it. Anyone got any airmiles? Might be time to leave. Last one out turn off the lights.

Just for fun, here is that muslim nutter heckling him

Prezza Puts the Cat Among the Pigeons

Check out this story in the Sunday Times. Prescott is thinking of staying on after Blair! Hahaha. That is absolute genius. If the Labour party wasn't in enough trouble already, here is Prezza adding to their woes.

I like the fact that he wants to stay to improve his reputation. I think the only way he could do that is if he chopped off his own head outside parliament. Is he the world's most ridiculous man? Is he the world's most arrogant man? Answers on a postcard.

Blair Wants To Focus on Policies


Tony Blair must be living in a world that is very different from the one that we all live in. Or perhaps he is the most optimistic man in the world. On today's Sunday AM, Tony Blair called for his party to focus on the policies rather than the personalities at the upcoming conference. That is a little like asking the eternally damned to focus on the pretty colours of the underworld rather than the searing heat and incredible pain.

What I don't understand is why he continues to make these ridiculous statements. Surely it would be obvious even to a five year old involved in a playtime power struggle that if you give up your role as leader then the scrapping will begin. It is the earnest way in which he calls for these things that kills me. Does he truly believe it? Has he convinced himself to believe it despite knowing it to be ridiculous? Or has he gone mad?

The other part of this that is great is the idea that there are policies to focus on. Whose policies would those be? Blair's? He's a lame duck, so anything that he puts forward is going to be discounted almost immediately.

On the idea of personalities I also have a problem. Most of the guys that are going to run for leader of the Labour party don't have one! Where are the interesting candidates?

Good luck Tony. It sounds like Manchester is going to be a blast.

Down to business

Well... it is very exciting to have to think about this posting. I suspect that it will become easier on Monday when the Labour party conference is on. No doubt there will be the normal band of misfits, irritants, idiots and psychos to post about. This year could be the best ever because of the Gordon/Tony issue.

It really is a mystery to me that we can be having such a media rucus about two incredibly mediocre guys. I look back through history and think of all the amazing things that mankind has accomplished, the scientific breakthroughs and the never ending wonder that is human achievement. Then I stack it up against the two miserable guys that are battling it out to run our country. Is it just me or can we do a little better?

We all laugh at suggestions that it might make sense to vote X-Factor style for politicians, but is it really that far fetched? Would Gordon Brown win that competition? At least X-Factor manages to choose good singers.

I'm quite pleased that the Labour party is winding itself up into a frenzy about who will take on Gordon (even his name is tedious, say it a few times). Alan and John are the other potential leaders - bored, bored, bored. I never thought I would say this, but maybe two shags would be a better choice. At least we would be kept on our toes as far as scandal is concerned, caught up in the kind of will he or won't he punch the Swedish head of state in the face debate.

I'll save my love of the Conservatives for the week following. Nobody can see implosion coming at that conference, so maybe it is ripe for a little craziness.