Saturday, November 18, 2006

Big Deal

The Iraqis must be ecstatic. Gordon Brown has promised them £100 million to help rebuild their country (here). What a ridiculously small and wasteful offer. The US has spent more than $30 billion on reconstruction, so what's a feeble £100 million between friends other than more taxpayer money wasted.

UPDATE: This is actually over three years!

Friday, November 17, 2006

When Will The BBC Learn?

I am genuinely sick and tired of comedians appearing on Question Time. For a program that is billed as the BBC's premiere panel discussion it is simply not good enough. I don't want to hear any more crap answers from people who know less about the topics being discussed than most of the audience. That seat would be better filled by somebody who can add something to the debate.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Channel 4 News Podcast

Part of this blog (here) was read out on Iain Dale's Channel 4 political podcast today. You can listen to that podcast here and you can visit Iain Dale's blog right here.

He's Finally Let Them Down...

I love the coverage in today's press (here and here) that has criticised Michael Jackson for not performing at the World Music Awards. I'm particularly fond of the fans who are quoted as saying that Michael "let them down". Good to see that this is what finally let them down and not the numerous child abuse court cases. I think some people need to put Michael in perspective. Personally I wouldn't have let him into the UK and certainly wouldn't let him perform. I get the same level of discomfort listening to Michael Jackson as I do hearing anything from Gary Glitter.

Gordon Brown Through The Ages

The Times has an interesting article here on how Tony Blair has aged over his time as Prime Minister. I thought it might be interesting to do the same for Gordon Brown. The results are quite scary.

Can you guess which one is the before and which the after?

George H. W. Bush Blames Bloggers For US Political Climate

Last night on Fox News, former President George H.W. Bush said the current political climate has “gotten so adversarial that it’s ugly.” Asked to offer an explanation for why there is this “incivility,” Bush pinned the blame on bloggers. Unfortunately, blaming bloggers for the political climate is a little like blaming the clouds for rain. It might seem that they're causing it, but it's a gross simplificaton. Bush Sr. should know better.

You can watch the video here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blair Bursts Cameron's Bubble

It's amazing how quickly smiling and small talk can turn to cutting and stabbing. If you'd seen Tony Blair and David Cameron walking from the House of Commons to the House of Lords you would have thought that the two of them were best of friends, sharing a laugh a joke and a story about their kids. Fast forward 35 minutes and you'd be forgiven for thinking that they wanted to disembowel each other.

The imminent lifting of a burden can have a liberating effect and that was certainly the case for Tony Blair in his post-Queen's Speech exchange. It was as if the shackles had finally come off. In fairness, Blair was helped by the large number of ridiculous things Cameron said over the course of the summer. In particular, the hideous comment about "sunshine ruling the day" came back to haunt him.

Gordon Brown looked as if he was about to prolapse on the seat next to Blair. I expected to look in the dictionary and see Gordon's face under the phrase "the cat that got the cream". The only problem is that there's an election process to go through. Gordon looks well placed today, but things can change in a heartbeat.

The lesson from today is that Cameron is vulnerable. Blair finally burst the honeymoon bubble and there will have been a lot of nervous Conservative MPs sat behind him. I've said it before, but I think the Labour Party will be full of regrets as they wave goodbye to their best political operator.

Queen's Speech Promises Even Less Freedom And A Little More Interfering

What a fascinating Queen's speech. The number of plots and sub-plots playing out were extraordinary. Firstly there was the terrific symmetry of this being Tony's last State Opening of Parliament as leader and it being David Cameron's first. Then there was the fact that Gordon Brown's shadow hung over the affair like Charles Clarke's stomach over a belt. And if that wasn't enough we also had Gordon Brown walking along side Menzies Campbell, his potential partner in a hung parliament. Phew... and that all took place before the Queen even started speaking.

A lame duck Prime Minister is a wonder to behold. The very nature of political power in the UK is such that governing is through the will of your party. John Major learned this to his cost as he saw his majority slowly whittled away and his supporters defect. For Tony Blair, the loss of power has been his own doing. He is definitely now "in office but not in power" and Gordon Brown's fingerprints were all over the speech without being entirely visible.

In terms of content, the speech set out a very busy legislative agenda. The main focus: security, law and order. In other words, how many more ways can we restrict the rights of decent law abiding British citizens without doing a single thing to combat the real causes of terrorism or societal breakdown. Other key areas were the tightening of regulations on estate agents (?), scrapping the Child Support Agency (a good idea) and the extension of road pricing schemes (a bad idea).

Two other areas are of real interest. The first is the extension of powers for the Mayor of London. I simply cannot believe that we need to put more power in the hands of Ken Livingstone. If ever there was a poster child for greater government centralisation it was him. Giving him greater power will just continue London's land grab for more and more tax payer money. If anybody thinks that the congestion charge is about the environment then they need their head examined. The second is the creation of an independent board to monitor government statistics. I have written about the issue of poor government statistics here before. I think that this independent board is a good first step, but why not put it in the hands of the Opposition. At least then it will have political teeth.

So, all in all a pretty interesting day in UK politics, but more for what was going on in the background and behind closed doors than for what was happening in the full glare of the Royal set piece. What is clear, though, is that this Labour government still hasn't learned that less is more as far as legislation is concerned - 29 bills!!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gordon Shows His True Colours

I am no fan of the BNP and find most of what they say repugnant. However, Gordon Brown has shown an extraordinary contempt for free speech in his latest comments (here). Gordon is quoted as saying "Any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country. We have got to do whatever we can to root it out from whatever quarter it comes. And if that means we have got to look at the laws again, we will have to do so."

What on earth has the offence of mainstream opinion got to do with anything? The whole point of speech being free is that it should be allowed to offend. We are searching for truth, not the lowest common denomominator of offence. It is this focus on not offending people that leads to a plethora of subjects being beyond debate in the UK. This is particularly true in the current war against terror.

If we have a problem with what the BNP is saying then we should debate them and win through the strength of our arguments rather than through a banning order. Today, we are not taking on their ridiculous remarks with logic. Instead, we are in danger of turning them into martyrs for freedom.

Charles Bradlaugh, the 19th Century political activist, once said "Without free speech no search for truth is possible... no discovery of truth is useful... Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race." It is about time we rekindled this spirit.