Friday, October 13, 2006

Holding Out Hoprah

Frequent readers of this blog will recall that I recently wrote a piece on Sen. Barack Obama (here). I did this at the request of my British landlord, but must confess that I couldn't have been less excited to write about him. I hope he doesn't run. I hope Hillary Clinton doesn't run. I hope to high heaven Evan Bayh doesn't run. And heaven forfend Joe Lieberman runs.

But you know who I hope does run? Oprah Winfrey. I'm not the first to think this, I know, as you can see here and here and even a petition you can sign here. But I did come to this conclusion on my own. Like wings on birds and wings on bats, if the same idea is ocurring independently to so many people, there must be something to it.

I would vote for her ten times, if I could. I don't care if she runs as a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent or even the Strathkelvin People's Independent Labour candidate (as long as she spelled it "Labor"). Just so long as she runs, I'll vote for her.

She's everything I think a President should be: a proven executive, a great communicator, empathetic, self-made, and likeable. I don't watch her show, I'm not in her book club, and I frankly didn't think all that much of The Color Purple. But I don't care. She's great, and she's just what we need.

Stick To The Politics

Sion Simon, the Labour MP who has parodied David Cameron's Webcameron, should stick to er... being a slightly underwhelming backbencher and leave comedy to the professionals. His video is terrible. Watch it below:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fancy A Freebie?

For those of us not fortunate enough to be MPs, the likelihood of us attending some of the great sporting fixtures or pop events is pretty slim. The tickets can be prohibitively expensive and that's if you can even get your hands on them.

Trawling through the Register of Members' Interests reveals some pretty interesting events that have been filed under "Gifts, benefits and hospitality (UK)". By far the most popular single event attended by MPs this year was the Brit Awards. At least 11 MPs attended the event and I can only imagine the fun they had mingling with the likes of Robbie Williams and Madonna. Whether Robbie and Madonna found it fun to mingle with the motley group of MPs is less likely (full list below).

Speaking of Madonna, good to see that Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) attended the Madonna concert at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and the Heineken Cup, both paid for by Western Power Distribution.

Jack Straw was also "lucky" enough to go to the Wimbledon ladies final this year courtesy of BP (yes, the multi-national oil corporation). Fortunately he didn't have to go alone, because his wife was also invited. Sky Sports is also nice enought to provide hospitality to Peter Hain to attend Chelsea's home games.

There are lots of MPs that do not accept these sorts of gifts and I'm not really sure why it's acceptable even if it is registered. It's not related to work outside parliament and seems to serve no other purpose than for corporate lobbyists to get close to MPs. Shouldn't MPs at least pay for their own tickets to these sports events and concerts?

MPs At The Brit Awards
Douglas Alexander(Paisley and Renfrewshire South)
Rt. Hon. Geoff Hoon(Ashfield)
Rt Hon Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle)
Rt Hon Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
Sadiq Khan (Tooting)
Rt Hon Theresa May (Maidenhead)
Adrian Sanders (Torbay)
Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford)
Helen Southworth (Warrington South)
Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet)
John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford)

A list of MPs receiving other interesting gifts and hospitality can be found here. Check out the Register of Members' Interests here.

Cameron Not Outstripping Labour Rivals on the Web

Despite David Cameron's recent push into blogging, he is not much more popular than Gordon Brown among web users. Information on search request volumes from Google Trends™ shows that Cameron and Brown register a fairly equal number. This should come as a bit of a blow for the Cameron camp after all the time and effort spent on building his online profile.

The real surprise from the numbers is that John Reid is right up there alongside the two of them and witnessed something of a spike over the summer. The bad news for Alan Johnson is that he is a distant third, reflecting his lower domestic and international profile.

The link to this trend comparison is here and you can find out more about Google Trends™ here.

Blair Must Go Now

Blair has called for his MPs to focus on beating the Tories and not on fighting between themselves. Is he stupid, mad or both? He's the reason that the fighting is going on. Some advice for Tony - they will fight until you leave, so if you want them to stop then leave now.

Latest Poll Findings Are Bad News For Cameron

The Times is reporting the outcome of a Populus poll taken between October 6-8. This will make sober reading for the Tories after what many thought was a solid conference last week.

The poll shows that Labour and the Conservatives are neck and neck when it comes to voting intentions. This, despite the weeks and weeks of fighting.

The positive news for Cameron is that he still beats all of the other candidates in a head to head comparison. The Times states:

"...David Cameron would comfortably defeat Labour at the next general election in three or four years whether the party were led by Gordon Brown, John Reid or Alan Johnson. Support for the Tories would be 40 per cent or more in each of these cases with Labour reaching no higher than 34 per cent. A consolation for Mr Brown is that Labour would do no better under either Mr Reid or Mr Johnson."

However, this is somewhat misleading. Any new leader of the Labour party would expect a bounce of their own and a honeymoon period in which they would see their poll ratings climb. This would be particularly true for the lesser known candidates of Reid and Johnson. Cameron's true lead is, therefore, much lower.

Without a sustained and real lead in the polls, there will be increasing calls from the right of the Conservative party for the kinds of policies that were swept under the carpet at last week's conference. Cameron has tried to jettison recent history and shift the party, but it will only work if he can deliver success. Failure and loyalty won't mix.

What Exactly Is President Bush's Job?

A terrific clip from The Daily Show.

Monday, October 09, 2006

If It Ain't Barack-en

A lot of buzz over here stateside about Barack Obama running for President. A few thoughts:

1) Senators never get elected, so it's a pointless discussion (only one in past hundred years was Kennedy, and I think his dad called in a few favors for that one). And why do they never get elected? Because they're not very good at running things. In my opinion, the number one criteria for a Presdient ought to be executive ability. We really blew it with our current incompetent. Forget policy (or leave it to the Congress, as seems proper to me). Our next President, first and foremost, must be good at running things. I just don't know how Obama rates on this point.

2) Not proud to say it, but how does a guy whose last name is one letter away from Osama and whose middle name is Hussein get elected in a post-9/11 invading Iraq America? Forget black-white issues--will this country be enlightened enough to elect a man with an Arabic name (even if he happens to be a Christian raised in Hawaii and a descendent of Jeff Davis)? I'd like to think so, but we are talking about the same electorate who was easily convinced that a winner of the silver star and three purple hearts was a coward while a draft-dodger who didn't even complete his service in the Texas Air National Guard was some kind of war hero. So I'm not optimistic.

3) Everyone gets very excited about the chance to have our first African-American president, but, racial labels aside, I don't think that distinction really counts until we elect the descendant of a slave. As Thomas Sowell, among others has pointed out, basing racism on the color of skin alone often overlooks a cultural bias against "American" blacks in favor of relatively recent Caribbean and African origin. So in a country where a black kid is six times more likely than a white kid to go to jail for the same crime (and with the same record), we ought to be very careful about what is real racial progress and what only appears to be racial progress. But of course, anyone who's not a white male would be a HUGE step forward and something I believe we should embrace. Although, as James Baldwin said, "I don't want someone not to like me because I'm black, and I don't want someone to like me because I'm black." In this regard, Obama, with his multicultural background, is uniquely well-positioned to address racial issues.

4) I do like very much that he is a man of letters. I believe political oratory in this country hits new and continuous lows, and applaud his raising the bar.

The Minuteman

Axis Of Evil

North Korea's nuclear test has ushered in a new era in international relations. It was only a few years ago that George W. Bush made his famous speech putting them in the "Axis of Evil". Check out Saturday Night Live's take on it.