'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Sunday 28 August 2011

I think most people who have dealt with me think I'm a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am.

No, not me.

The words of Tony Blair, very early in his premiership, when a lot of people thought this to be true. It took a while for the Bliar theme to emerge...

But I'd like to think it could be about me. Or anyone who takes an active interest in politics. I'm not talking about professional politicians. I'm talking about the people who push leaflets through doors week in, week out, who organise fund raising lunches all year round, and yes, even people who blog in an effort to get the message out.

But actually, nowadays, I'm not sure people outside politics would say that about any of us.

I was reminded of the Blair quote when I was reading Martin Kettle's terrific piece in The Guardian last week entitled "Heard the one about the corrupt, lying politician?". Do read it, but the basic sentiment is that 20 years of political satire in this country has given politicians a bad name. Here's a sample...

"And what is Hislop's principal message? Week in and week out, it is that most pretty much all politicians are corrupt, deluded, incompetent, second-rate and hypocritical. Hislop's message is delivered with enviable deftness and wit, and very often it is irresistible. But it is also good-naturedly merciless. And extremely repetitive. There is never any sign that Hislop allows of exceptions; or that he has a political hero; or even, with the occasional honourable mention for Vince Cable, that there are politicians whom he respects. The impression he always gives is that today's politicians are uniformly unworthy of their inheritance, not to be compared with some previous golden age of statesmanlike effectiveness."

Now of course, politicians don't exactly help themselves, not with expenses scandals, bare faced fibbing, and ,er, broken pledges (ahem, shuffles nervously).

But I do think that the satirists do play their part too (it's a little chicken and egg, but still)...And I think we do all end up tarred with the same brush.

I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for us. But just sometimes, when I'm shoving leaflets through doors on a wet saturday morning, it would be nice if I thought people were a little more positive about politics.

I'm also aware this is probably a sentiment not shared by many others!

Saturday 27 August 2011

Slacking Again

This blog is sunning itself in Spain. It is not expecting to be summoned home due to riots or foreign wars.

See you in a week

PS There are a few treats lined up for the week. Don't get too excited mind...

PPS Thanks to Applied Language Solutions for letting me use their flag. Bet they didn't think they'd end up being credited on a Lib Dem blog when they asked for link back mind...

Martin Shapland has saved me a job. Thanks!!

Just before going on holiday (yes,again), I was going to knock off a quick blog post explaining that while I think the EDL are a collection of vile and loathsome idiots, I don't agree with banning political marches.

Then I discovered that Martin Shapland had written everything I was going to say and more over at Total Politics.

So go and read his post instead. It's very good.

Right. Where's the suncream...

Friday 26 August 2011

David Cameron may well read my blog but Tim Montgomerie doesn't.


Tim Montgomerie's gone off on one.

He wrote a piece in the Evening Standard the other day complaining about Lib Dem influence on government

As I wrote then, if The Tories are complaining we're getting in the way, we must be doing something right.

Anyway, Tim's not taking any notice. Which is fair enough.

And now he's written a piece, entitled "With every passing day the Liberal Democrats are dragging the Coalition further away from the Conservative manifesto."

So kick back everyone and take a well deserved 15 minutes off to consider just how right we must be getting it.

And then lets get right back on with building a more liberal Britain.

Tim Farron has just made my holidays safer.

One of the reasons I enjoy following Tim Farron on Twitter is that when he lists where he's been on his constituency tours, it reads like my holidays all rolled in to one. Grasmere, Ambleside, Troutbeck...all conjure up happy memories.

I go to the Lakes most years, and apart from the posters advertising where Tim is due to meet residents - the shop in Chapel Stile and the Britannia Inn in Elterwater are frequent favourites - one of the most common sights are the collection boxes and appeals from the local mountain rescue teams for donations. Because all the work they have done until now is voluntary and all their equipment is bought from what they can collect. Until now.

Because Lib Dem MP's like Tim have been campaigning for funding for the teams and earlier this month Danny Alexander announced that the government is giving an annual grant of £200000 to Mountain Rescue teams across the UK. And I think that's brilliant.

When I'm stumbling around on the top of a mountain with three kids, vaguely wondering if we shouldn't have set off a little earlier, it's a huge comfort to know that if anything did go pear shaped, there's someone there to help. And now the presence of that help is a little more secure.

However, there is lots more to do.

The grant will cover about 10% of the annual running costs of a team - £2500 out of an average budget of £25000. so the collecting and campaigning will go on.

And next step should be a change in EU law to allow teams to reclaim VAT on equipment that they buy. Currently the emergency services bar mountain rescue can do this, which seems like an anomaly that needs fixing. (I wonder if the RNLI, another charity, is in the same boat, no pun intended).

But meantime, this is a huge step in the right direction.

Thursday 25 August 2011

#handsofftwitter : update

Thanks all round to the gazillions of people and organisations who added a #handsofftwitter hashtag to their tweets today, it's great to see so many of them. Special thanks to Julian Huppert, the many media organisations and comms agencies, and also the MP's from Labour and Green parties (narrows the field, that last one, doesn't it) who were all non partizan and tweeted the tag as well. I'm sure there are others I should have mentioned, so apologies and thanks to them.

It seems that good news has emerged from the meeting with The Guardian (and others) reporting that the Home Office and the Met Police are backing down on the proposals.

Any while that shouldn't mean we let our guard down - it's got to be good news.

Thanks again everyone


Extra Special thanks to Gordon Macmillan, editor at Brand republic, who not only RT'd my original tweet, but then wrote this which got lost of attention. Great stuff.

Today's the day. #handsofftwitter

Representaives of all the Social Networks are meeting with the Home Secretary today to discuss the effect of Twitter et al on the riots.

David Cameron and the Acting Commissioner of The Met have both mooted the notion that the police should have the power to turn off social networks if they deem it appropriate, while the Tory MP and member of the DCMS Select Committee Louise Mensch has run a high profile campaign endorsing this thought (ironically enough, using Twitter).

Today by all accounts the networks are going to give a firm rejection of this threat to freedom of speech. It also says a lot that the Chinese Government think it's a terribly good idea. Which surely should give pause for thought.

So please take a moment today - why not do it now? - to post something on whichever Social Network you use to tell the government that the right to access Social Media at all times should be as guaranteed in Trafalgar Square as Tahir Square or Martyrs Square.

And if you're doing it on Twitter please add the hashtag #handsofftwitter which we're trying to get trending.


The Tories are complaining we're getting in the way. We must be doing something right...

Thanks to Nick Thornsby who tweeted round this piece yesterday. It's from Tim Montgomerie in The Evening Standard and he's blaming us for everything.

Here's a sample but do read the whole thing:

"Does Cameron have the strength to overcome Liberal Democrat resistance to human rights reform and a new approach to family and parenting? Will he find the money to invest in the kind of early intervention and anti-gang programmes that the Centre for Social Justice think-tank has proven are vital to change social behaviour? Will he have the guts to replace the current Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, with someone like David Davis, who will restore a tougher approach to prisons.

Many Liberal Democrats have calculated that the answer to all of these questions is "no". The junior partner in the coalition Government has studied the Prime Minister up close for more than a year now. Like many others who've had a ringside seat during Cameron's leadership, they've concluded that the Prime Minister is a master of the big occasion but is more hare than tortoise"

Now, Nick's worried that the take out from pieces like this may be "the Lib Dems are stopping businesses from getting going again, the economy's flat, it's all their fault." And certainly sections like this are a real concern:

"...the other big challenge is on the economic front. Throughout the past 12 months the Liberal Democrats have objected to measures that will supercharge the economy. The result is a lopsided Government that is cutting spending but isn't giving businesses the help they need to expand and take on new workers".

If this sort of attribution of blame was to become the norm, that would obviously be a huge issue.

But actually, overall, I think Tim Montgomerie's piece plays very well for us. Because it tells the world that the Lib Dems are not 'Diet Tory'. Rather, as I've often advocated on this blog, we are the brake on their worst excesses, we are the voice of reason, we are their conscience.

On it's own, this is not enough. We still need to be credited for delivering radical, liberal policies that enhance the lives and life chances of every individual. And there is much work for us to do here, both in execution and communication.

But if we're also credited with making David Cameron and his party more liberal - I'm all for it.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

So. How did 'The Iron Lady' go down?

I'm writing this now having just scheduled posting the trailer for the new Meryl Streep film about Margaret Thatcher earlier. And I'm pondering how it will have gone down.

I know she is not exactly the most popular of politicians amongst anyone likely to be reading my blog. But few would argue that she was the dominant British political figure of the 1980's, and the trailer is extremely well done - when I saw it, I didn't know what it was for, and while I guesssed before the cutaway, that moment you see her is still beautifully executed. And while I am a Lib Dem I am also a political animal, hoovering up books and films about politics across the board, and this looks like an unmissable event.

Also I have a personal reason for putting it up. When I joined the advertising industry in the late 1980's I was played a tape, allegedly of Mrs T in voice training. I have no idea whether it was really what it claimed to be - but it was very convincing. And rather like the trailer suggests.

But even so. I still wondered about putting the trailer up. Because no one in British politics, left or right, seems to generate the ire that Mrs T manages.

I wonder what you've all been thinking about it?

Whether pro or against - I bet you all still watched it though....

PS. Just to cheer everyone up - apparently the Tories are going to hate it...

And also hats off - everyone seems to have kept their principles in tack. The post with the trailer wasn't exactly red hot on the page views front...

The teaser for the political film of the year...

It's a teaser so I'll comment later on the subject matter, rather than spoil the fun..

But as a piece of communication - it's spine tinglingly good.

And let's face it - we're all going - aren't we....

Wow. Amazing pictures from Inside the Rixos Hotel, Tripoli

Foto Reuters / Paul Hackett

This and 7 other amazing pictures of journalists inside the Hotel Rixos are now available on this website. They are astonishing and really bring home the situation these brave people are in - especially if the stories of them being now trapped in the hotel are true.

Let's hope they all stay safe.

H/T to @Jonathanhaynes for the link


Just seen this Tweet from Politics Home. V. worrying.

Update 2


Thanks for making this my most read blog post ever yesterday.

Many thanks to everyone who read my blog post yesterday encouraging people to write to Time Magazine and sign the petition calling for Muhammad Al Bouazizi to be made Time Magazine's 'Person of the Year' for 2011.

I am genuinely touched that so many people took the trouble to read the post, click on the links and also tweeted around the link. The blog has never been so busy.

Hopefully Time Magazine are hearing the message and Muhammad will be remembered in this most appropriate of ways.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

CNN getting geography mixed up? I thought that was Fox News' job.

As one wit has noted on Twitter, this might explain why they can't find Gadhafi anywhere...

Libya, Tunisia, Egypt et al - uprisings all started by a fruit seller in Sidi Bouzid.

Please help me Persuade Time Magazine to make a Tunisian fruit seller called Muhammad Al Bouazizi their 'Person of the Year 2011'

Time Magazine gives the title 'Person of the Year' to the individual who 'for better or for worse...has done the most to influence the events of the year'.

They are clear that the title should not in itself be a prize, but an acknowledgement of influence on world events. Recent winners include Mark Zuckerberg, Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama.

I think in 2011 that title should be given to a Tunisian street vendor called Muhammad Al Bouazizi. It would be a fitting tribute to one man who has clearly already influenced the world in ways he could never have imagined.

For those who don't know, and you can read much fuller accounts here and here, (and from Time Magazine itself here), Mr Bouazizi was a fruit seller in a small provincial town called Sidi Bouzid. Following a confrontation with a local government inspector on Dec 17, and several attempts at getting anyone in authority to listen to his complaints, Mr Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest at his treatment and the treatment of millions like him, in front of the gates of the Governors office.

He died on Jan 4th from his injuries. In the intervening time, rioting, sparked by Mr Bouazizi's act, had started in cities across the country. Before he died he was visited in hospital by President Zine el-Abidine Ben, and 10 days after his death, the President fled the country.

As we now know, this is nowhere near the end of it. A second dictatorship has fallen in Egypt (the world watches to see how the military will make handle the transition to, hopefully, full democracy) and now it looks like Libya is about to gain freedom also. Meantime, protest movements continue across the Middle East.

Of course, he could not have known where his protest could lead. But that is not the point. One man's selfless act has changed the Middle East more than decades of diplomacy have managed. And I think his influence and memory must be marked.

I am sending the following note to the Managing Editor of Time Magazine, Richard Stengel. If you feel you would like to send a similar note, please feel free to copy the note and forward it to Time by clicking here. Also please sign the on line petition by clicking here

Dear Mr Stengel

Before he is forgotten, I would like to nominate Tunisian market trader Muhammad Al Bouazizi as your Person of the Year for 2011.

Your criteria is 'the person who has done most to influence events of the year'. Already we have seen his selfless protest leading to the collapse of dictatorships, and popular uprisings across the Middle East as the people demand democracy and influence over their own destiny. It is hard to imagine any individual who could do more in the coming months to change the course of an entire region, if not the global political map itself.

It would be all too easy to forget, as events unfold on a daily basis, that all this started thanks to the actions of a single man, selling fruit on a street, in a small provinicial Tunisian town.

The 'Time' award is of course not a prize; but it should be a marker for the world to acknowledge the acts of others. And Mr Bouazizi, in a single act, has done more than Presidents, Prime Minsters, Diplomats and opinion leaders have achieved in 30 years in the Middle East.

Please, over coming months, don't forget him, and make him your Person of the Year

Yours sincerely

Richard Morris

Never mind 4 years time. What happened 12 months ago?

Chris (Lord) Rennard wrote a great piece the other day for Lib Dem Voice about the perils of trying to guess what would happen in 2015 from here - looking back four years to illustrate his point...

This seems especially salient today as everyone gets very excited about the ICM poll giving us 17% share - and as the always sensible Olly Grender has tweeted, you have to look at polls over time, not instant snapshots - unless it's the actual election.

Anyway, I thought, never mind 4 years ago - what happened this time last year? Any ideas?


Would you be surprised to hear that the a momentous global event took place one year yesterday?

One that kept a global audience rapt for the next 2 months.

And at its conclusion, kept many of us up all night to see how it all ended.

It was this.

Funny how quickly we forget these things.

Making it very hard to know what's going to happen in May 2015, don't you think?

PS Interesting follow up story here. Thanks to Paul Kirkley who pointed me in this direction!

We're not normal, you know.

When I saw Nick Clegg speak to a packed audience the other week on a sunny Wednesday lunchtime, he made the excellent point that everyone in attendence was a little unusual, with a rather-more-than-average interest in politics - choosing to spend their lunch hour in a hot stuffy room talking policy rather than being out in the sunshine talking about almost anything else.

This has just home to me again when I glance at what are currently the most read stories on the Guardian Website. They are, on this day of more than averagely sized momentous events:

1. Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur: Five things we learned
2. Gadaffi's son Saif al-Islam is free
3. Libya: the battle for Tripoli - live updates
4. Smoking shisha: how bad is it for you?
5. Samir Nasri misses Aresenal's Udinese tie after Arsene Wenger climbdown

Now Libya is 2 of the top 5 - but it's not top, and it only scores as well as football.

No mention for other prominent stories such as the Coulson payments (have to say, much as it pains me, I think Peston may be on the wrong track there - let's hope not though, eh?),Eurozone meltdown,or Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The lesson here is I guess that when we're battling over things we care about - I'd say reform of the House of Lords was a prime example - the battle for attention is a tough one to win, as while this stuff may matter, it may not be what people want to engage with, listen to or learn from - and as I blogged yesterday, getting the facts out alone may not be enough to change people's opinions. You have to get their attention.

Monday 22 August 2011

Tuition Fees. It's not just setting out the facts. The problem is getting anyone to listen.

Mark Thompson has written an excellent article this morning on Iain Dale's blog about myth busting and tuition fees. His basic argument is that if the proper facts were known about tuition fees and they had been properly communicated by both the government and the media, then a lot of concerns would have been allayed.

And he is probably right.

But may I suggest that another problem may lie at the root cause of people's unhappiness with the new system. Maybe it's not the communication - maybe they are just not listening. And this comes down to Behavioural Economics.

Behavioural economics has something of a bad name in political circles currently, ever since it was revealed that Steve Hilton was a fan and David Cameron has read 'Nudge'. However it is still very much of the moment in Adland , and we do know a thing or two over here about changing people's behaviour. Plus the Obama 2008 campaign used it extensively as well - so there's something to it...

In a nutshell to quote Thaler and Sunstein in 'Nudge, "classical economics invented the notion of ‘Homo economicus’, who “can think like Albert Einstein, store as much memory as IBM’s Big Blue, and exercise the willpower of Mahatma Gandhi. But the folks we know are not like that.Real people have trouble with long division if they don't have a calculator, sometimes forget their spouses birthday and have a hangover on New Years Day".

There's a longer summary here but really, that's what it's all about.

In other words, human beings don't necessarily act rationally, nor hear the facts - they often hear what they want to hear.

On tuition fees, they mostly heard words like betrayal of trust, broken promises and broken pledges, and increases across the board.

And so the 'facts' they picked up and which stuck will be the negative ones - like fees tripling.

This is nothing to do with logic. It is all to do with perception.

So we can now argue the facts until we are blue in the face. But until we change the perception, the fees argument will not turn.

The people who are threatening Louise Mensch and her children should be locked up for a very long time.

I've not been a big fan of Louise Mensch and her views around how the government should grant the police powers to turn off social media should they so desire - as posts like this and this indicate.

However there is absolutely no justification that she should be subjected to threats against her children for whatever views she may hold, and it makes me sick to the stomach that she has been. The scum responsible for this are not only evil - they are also gobsmackingly stupid, as they cannot seem to see that they are attempting to deny Louise the freedom of speech that they allegedly are fighting to support.

While I don't share her views on control of social media, she has all my sympathy that she has been the subject of this foul attack.

Thanks as ever....

... for putting three of my posts in this weeks Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen including the most popular post. I am humbled that people spend time seeing what I've been saying, thank you.

The site is currently down so if you would like to see what made the grade it was:

1. I live in Richmond. Last night, Jack Straw declared war on me.

2. Does being a Lib Dem mean my kids shouldn't be made to pick up litter in the streets?

3. What else did Nick Clegg get asked in London last week? And more to the point, how did he answer?

Thanks again. Truly appreciate your support.

Sunday 21 August 2011

I reckon David Cameron's been reading my blog again...

After my blogpost earlier this week pondering the virtues of a community service scheme and wondering if it's totally illiberal to think it has some good points, I see the Prime Minister has suggested widening the scope of the current pilot schemes.

Now, while my natural inclination to think anything David Cameron has to say about the riots is pretty much wrong headed to begin with, once again I have to say I think there is something in this idea.

I think the fact that while every child after GCSE's would potentially get the chance to take part in the scheme, but that it is voluntary, not compulsory, is a good balance. And I find it hard to disagree with this sentiment either...

"I want the national citizen service to be available to every teenager after GCSEs. I want them to learn that they can make a difference in their communities and that real fulfilment comes not from trashing things or being selfish but by building things and working with others."

Now the success of the scheme will depend largely on who chooses to take part, and what they will have a chance to do.

But in principle - helping young people to volunteer to do good in the place where they live - we've got to be able to endorse that. Haven't we?

Saturday 20 August 2011

Imagine you're a Registered Republican, you're about to select a candidate. Here are your choices.

Yes, I know we're all (sweeping generalisation) Obama folk. But on the basis that it's always best to know what you're up against...

These are the latest campaign videos (as far as I can tell and as their websites reveal) from the 18 candidates still in the running. On occasion I have put in clips from debates etc if that's what the candidate is currently choosing to show (Newt Gingrich for example) and on other occasions when the candidate makes it hard to download the film - Jon Huntsman, stand in the corner- I've gone for the best proxy I can find.

It's fascinating viewing.

Before watching them, do read this excellent piece entitled 'US voters are not mad. Our stereotype of them is patronising and wrong' from Martin Kettle in The Guardian. It's a good context for seeing who is likely to emerge as the challenger to Obama.

So, here goes....

Michele Bachmann

Herman Cain

Newt Gingrich

Jon Greenspon

Jon Huntsman

Gary Johnson

Fred Karger

Andy Martin

Thadeus McCotter

Jimmy McMillan

(very limited video available - this was the best I could find)

Tom Miller

Strangely, seems to have no video or news appearences available. Anywhere. But here's his website

Roy Moore

Ron Paul

Rick Perry

Buddy Roemer

(13 minutes long - but after 30 secs or so, you'll have the idea...)

Mitt Romney

Rick Santorum

Vern Wuensche

Just to be clear, Sarah Palin hasn't declared, and Tom Pawlenty has withdrawn. But if Sarah Palin were to declare she'd probably be running this...

(thanks to @themsley for that one)

Still time for others - but chances are it's one of the above.

Here we go...

Friday 19 August 2011

I can't find an amusing shot of Ed Miliband, so here's one of David Cameron instead...

Infantile? Vaucuous? Peurile? Oh yes, but still funny. And rather more subtle than the usual standard.

Here's a picture of David Cameron enjoying a day at the Test today. The big question is: what is that suspicious looking object on the table? And no, I don't mean the cakes...

Thought the relaxed approach was best with the PM on Twitpic

Photo: @Aggers on Twitter

(I do know the answer. But I won't spoil the fun).

Is this cricket?

No one else seems to be begging for votes so I'm probably breaking every unwritten rule in the book.

But, at the risk of being drummed out of the Bloggers Circus, with my red nose and clown's feet being hurled after me, the nominations for Blog of the Year over at Lib Dem Voice are open.

This blog is eligible for three categories - New Blog, Best Post and Blog of the Year.

So if you did feel the urge to nominate me and save me the trouble of adopting a new identity and nominating myself, I'd be very grateful.

Though not in a financial sense.


Thursday 18 August 2011

Sighs. Writes another Louise Mensch post.

Oh dear. Much more of this and I'm going to have to stop following @louisemensch on Twitter. It's not good for your blood pressure.

Her latest missive - ironically posted on the very medium she is attacking - suggests that the Police should only have the power to close down Social Media 'in times of national emergency' and therefore any comparisons to the Arab Spring were 'hysterics' (I imagine she gets reminded often that David Cameron said social media should be as free to use in Tahir Square as in Trafalgar Square - though not presumably ,in the world of Mensch, if the police are kettling students there at the time).

Anyway, may I suggest to Louise that if you were the government of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria et al, and there was a revolution going on the streets, you might choose to interpret this as a 'national emergency' - and turn off social media. And we would say that was wrong and rightly condemn it.

Surely she can see that she is advocating legalising the same thing here. Which is why we cannot allow it to happen.


I have sent Louise links to this post of the Chinese Government's endorsement of state control of Social Media in the UK, to see if that has changed her mind. She hasn't replied.

Here's THAT Piers Morgan's interview with Christine O'Donnell

Gobsmacking. It's all good but the fun really starts at around the 2 minute mark

Piers is for once, spot on. If she writes these (idiotic) views she should have the courage to defend them.

But let's be clear. SHE IS NOT A WITCH.

Here's a very good account from the assistant producer who had to walk her from the CNN building...

Mark Pack. This one's for you...

Other bloggers and stats enthusiasts (Mark Pack, sit down, grab a coffee, this means you) may enjoy a look at where my blog traffic comes from.

Firstly: referring sites. The top ten reads

1. www.libdemblogs.co.uk
2. www.libdemvoice.org
3. www.google.co.uk
4. carons-musings.blogspot.com
5. twitter.com
6. www.google.com
7. www.facebook.com
8. www.newstatesman.com
9. stephensliberaljournal.blogspot.com

So many special thanks to Caron Lindsay and Stephen Glenn for pushing traffic my way. And I'd advise everyone to post relevant comments and link to your own posts in them on the New Statesman website as it seems to work!

Secondly, where do my readers live. No surprise on number one, but after that...

1. United Kingdom
2. United States
3. Germany
4. France
5. Russia
6. Singapore
7. Canada
8. Ireland
9. India
10. Australia

Yes. I am big in Singapore.

Thanks to everyone who has visited.

I live in Richmond. Last night Jack Straw declared war on me.

Not just me of course. Every Lib Dem. Both in Richmond and beyond. How so?

Well, many of you will know that it has been alleged that Richmond Council - which is controlled by the Conservatives - have been holding a young person on remand in... A Premier Inn. Mr Straw was invited on to Newsnight to share his thoughts on this 'situation'.

And when asked who did he target for blame, which individual did he pick out?

Somebody on the Tory run Council?

The Home Secretary (a Conservative)?

The Justice Secretary (Conservative)?

The Conservative MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith (in whose constituency the Premier Inn in Richmond is situated)?

No. None of them.

He went for the other MP who's constituency sits in the borough.

Vince Cable.

How random is that?

When I'd finished shouting at the TV, I thought a little about this. And decided it probably wasn't very random at all.

Ever since Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader there has been a clear strategy from Labour to target us. To steal both our policies and our supporters.

Over the last few months, this has been less transparent. I suspect partly because they've been too busy fighting each other and partly because as we languish in the polls they think their energy is better spent elsewhere.

But in recent weeks we've been back on the front foot. We've held the moral high ground on Hackgate. We've presented the right approach to the riots and the rioters. And our polling is improving.

And Labour has noticed. And now they are back on our case.

Let's get ready for the battle.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Riots, moral degradation, the collapse of polite society, use of technology and David Starkey. It's all happened before.

The ever brilliant Graham Linehan (@glinner on twitter) has just circulated this excellent piece from Bagehot in the Economist - comparing the worst excesses of the left and the right reactionaries after the riots and comparing their words to what has been written over the last 200 years about similar incidents. In each and every case, the collapse of society has been predicted, calls for extreme punishment have been at the forefront of the debate, and the advent of new technology has been blamed - even down to the introduction of the new fangled silent movie in the early 20th century.

"Here is M.G. Barnett, author of "Young Delinquents" (Methuen, 1913) warning readers that silent films present children with "a direct incentive to crime, demonstrating, for instance, how a theft could be perpetrated". Small wonder that the Times of the same year editorialised:

All who care for the moral well-being and education of the child will set their faces like flint against this new form of excitement"

Its much longer than the average Bagehpot piece so do have a gander on line if you can as it will undoubtably end up edited down in the magazine...

Do enjoy this video of us laughing at the American Penal System. Because shortly they'll be doing exactly the same to us.

I'm not an apologist for the rioters. I think they need to be punished and in many cases, an example set.

But all the time I've been listening to the reports of frankly ludicrous sentences being handed out to people for stealing bottles of water, nicking chewing gum or receiving stolen property in the guise of wearing a pair of shorts, something has been nagging away at me.

And it's the video above.

Because as soon as we punish out of all proportion, we're another step closer to a failed prison system, a failing criminal justice system and a refusal to start putting things right.

I can just imagine what Jon Stewart is going to make of 4 years for publishing a Facebook page....

Thank goodness Nick Clegg has come out with some sensible proposals - that even the Telegraph are endorsing.

When the Chinese government are praising your attempts to control social media, surely then you know you've got it wrong?

As has been widely reported the very worrying bandwagon to give the police powers to control social media is still rolling along. But surely the statement below from an official Chinese news agency that both pokes fun at the UK government and lauds the possibility of the UK introducing such controls will give pause for thought in Downing Street? Let's hope Cameron is scarlet with shame and embarrassment.

The original release can be seen here.

(thanks to @davidallengreen who tweeted this link yesterday)

BEIJING, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Following days of violent riots in Britain, speculation has grown as to why and how the trouble spread so rapidly.

Apparently the rioters used social media, like Twitter, Facebook and the Blackberry messenger system and Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday he's looking at banning potential troublemakers from using the online services.

The British government, once an ardent advocate of absolute Internet freedom, has thus made a U-turn over its stance towards web-monitoring.

Communications tools such as Facebook and cellphones also played a delicate role in the massive social upheaval earlier this year in north Africa and neighboring west Asian countries, whose governments then imposed targeted censorship over message flows on the Internet.

In a speech delivered in Kuwait in February, the British prime minister, however, argued that freedom of expression should be respected "in Tahrir Square as much as Trafalgar Square."

Learning a hard lesson from bitter experience, the British government eventually recognized that a balance needs to be struck between freedom and the monitoring of social media tools.

Cameron himself admitted that the "free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill."

"And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them," he told lawmakers Thursday.

We may wonder why western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet.

They are not interested in learning what content those nations are monitoring, let alone their varied national conditions or their different development stages.

Laying undue emphasis on Internet freedom, the western leaders become prejudiced against those "other than us," stand ready to put them in the dock and attempt to stir up their internal conflicts.

With no previous practice, the world is still exploring effective solutions to Internet monitoring.

"Technology has no morality," observed Emma Duncan, deputy editor of The Economist.

And the Internet is also a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. For the benefit of the general public, proper web-monitoring is legitimate and necessary.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Video - David Cameron, Twitter and rude words. Is this why he doesn't like it?

Lest we forget...Cameron has been in a spot of trouble before over inappropriate language talking about Twitter. Ironically - when making the point that politicians have to think about what they say.

Do enjoy the film - and then think about signing the petition against state restrictions on using Twitter.


Does being a Lib Dem mean my kids shouldn't be made to pick up litter in the street?

I did a degree in geography because (as I said once in a job interview, perhaps unwisely) it meant I could study pretty much whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, which rather suited my butterfly mind. Economics, politics, biology, urban movement, history, even historical literature - as long as you could find a spatial element to it, it was geography.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I read Ed Rooksby's piece in The Guardian, 'what does it mean to be a liberal?' It's a good summary of both the history of liberalism and the catholic groups and individuals who claim ownership of it as a philosophy.

And Ed makes the excellent point that all these diverse groups do have one core belief in common, which is:

'Liberalism is founded on a particular view of human nature and society – the assumption that human beings are, first and foremost, individuals. This foundation is simultaneously ontological and ethical. That is, it sees the individual as more fundamental, more real, than society, and at the same time regards the individual as much more morally valuable than any collective entity.'

Co-incidentally this has strong echoes of Nick's closing remarks in his Q&A with party members in London last week, in which he encouraged us to use more liberal vocabulary and to put the cherishing of the individual foremost in everything we do.

And I absolutely believe in this.

Which brings me on to picking up litter. No really, bear with me here.

I've blogged before about the fact that I've no real problem with the notion of 'The Big Society' if it means people volunteering to come together to do good things in their local community. In fact, I quite like it.

Now, a confession. While I'm not a fan (understatement) of the reintroduction of National Service, I can't get nearly so worked up about the notion of a period of compulsory community service for young people. I don't see there being much wrong with my kids spending a short period of time coming together with the rest of the local young people to do some good work in the community. Don't get me wrong, I'm not buying into any ludicrous suggestion that this would sort out all our problems and prevent a riot ever happening again. But I can still see the positives in it as a notion.

Then someone tweeted me yesterday (I'm sorry, I can't remember who but get in touch and I'll credit you). Their tweet said 'I'm very uncomfortable with the notion of compulsory community service. Implies state ownership of the individual'.

Which is of course logically quite right.

So there. Does the fact that I don't find the notion of my kids being made to do a period good in the community utterly unbearable, undermine all my Liberal principles?


I'd value your views.


As I was typing this on the train. Nick Clegg was announcing his rather brilliant Community Payback Scheme. To quote The Spectator..

'Cometh the hour, cometh Nick Clegg. The Independent reports that the Deputy Prime Minister is to announce that first-time offenders convicted of looting but not given custodial sentences will be forced to do community service in the very streets that they ransacked. The government hopes to ensure that community sentences are robust, inculcating a sense of responsibility in first-time offenders and insulating them from malign influences in prison. The Probation Service will oversee this programme, which Clegg has called ‘Community Payback’.'

First class

Thank you, Gavin Hamilton

Thanks to Gavin Hamilton from The View from the Hills for adding me to his blog roll, always really appreciated.

Monday 15 August 2011

What else did Nick get asked in London last week? And more to the point - how did he answer?

Following on from my post about Nick's Q&A session with London members last week, I promised I'd post about what else he was asked and what he said.

Obviously the perils of leaving it a few days before checking the scribbles I made , in a hot room, standing up mean that some of my notes leave a little to be desired. But here are a few highlights. Not everyone is going to agree with all he said - and I'll be paraphrasing....

The Young

My abiding memory of the whole meeting was of Nick's passion when talking about the young, especially against the backdrop of the riots. He spoke about how he felt that as a society we had consistently failed large numbers of the young in the early years (pre 8) when all their passion for learning, self confidence and sense of ambition was set. He spoke about his pride in the Pupil Premium, the provision of free nursery care for 2 year olds from deprived backgrounds and his determination that a Liberal Democrat government would make encouraging the young and giving them a springboard for life a priority. He was engaging and inspiring and his words got strong applause.

What do we say on the doorstep?

Defend the key policies that the Lib Dem's have introduced - the assistance for 2 year olds, 250k more apprenticeships, 250k already taken out of income tax, restoration of the pensions link.

In a separate question Nick spoke of his belief that by 2015 the Lib Dem's will be seen as having very separate policies from the conservatives. He spoke of his core belief that the forces of conservatism and liberalism are ultimately diametrically opposed. He also spoke of the need to ensure we got the credit for our policies and didn't take the blame for policies we didn't back. He also said he liked U turns if stopping the NHS Reforms was an example of one - better to get it right.

Foreign Wars

He reiterated his belief that we went in to the Libya campaign for the right reasons, that Libya - legally and morally - was a completely different case from Iraq, and where there was a moral imperative to act then we were right to do so.

He also said once again that we would be out of Afghanistan by 2015

Get more on the front foot

Nick was asked why he wasn't more on the front foot and leading on issues like the riots. He responded stridently and robustly, both pointing out what he had been doing - and reminding the room that we hadn't won the last election If we were going to lead on every issue - we needed to do better at the next election.

Again in a response to a separate question, he talked eloquently about the traditional problem we face - that the establishment, especially in the media, hate the fact that we are in power as it disrupts the normal left:right equilibrium they exist in - and we need to be counter this.


I've already blogged about his response to my question about his targets for 2015. Nick also talked of the need to stop Labour trying to promise, once the economy starts to revive properly, of claiming they were the right party to take us to the sunny uplands of new prosperity. We must never forget - and must not let others forget - that their economic mismanagement was why we are in the mess we are in, and that their fiscal plan would also have led to severe cuts, whatever they now say.

Reviving the economy

Again Nick spoke of the need to remove our dependence as an economy of the financial services sector, to promote more creative solutions to our economic malaise - green investment bank, research credits and the need for creative thinking to revive our industrial policy were all mentioned.


I can't remember the final question - but I remember Nick's answer! An impassioned appeal for more use of our own language, the language of liberalsim, of the centre, that our values and policies should not be judged j on the left/right axis, and most notable, a determination to cherish the role of the individual and the maximise the potential of each and every member of society.

He was terrific on this.


It was a great session. Nick was impassioned, confident, was not taking any crap off anyone, answered the questions head on and was very direct.

I didn't agree with every thing he said. But he was very impressive. And I left emboldened and encouraged.

A post containing shameless bragging followed by brazen begging for help. I know, its not attractive...

First off many thanks to everyone who read this post on the blog and made it top of this weeks Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen. I am full of misplaced pride.

Secondly, as I am relatively new to this blogging malarkey (the site is now 7 months old) I am told that I should be begging votes left, right and centre (tho being a Lib Dem, mainly centre) for the Total Politics 'Blog of the Year' poll.

So if you have 2 minutes to vote for me, I'd be very grateful. Although of course if I do alright, you can expect another smug blog post like this one to follow shortly after.

Hope that hasn't put you off.

Finally, if you are wondering who else to vote for - why not have a gander at my blog roll on the right bottom of this page. Lots of good stuff there.

Thanks again

Wednesday 10 August 2011

I've just asked Nick Clegg how many seats he wants to win at the next election. Here's his answer.

Today was a 'meet the leader' session for London members of the Lib Dems at the National Liberal Club. A packed room heard Nick take questions for over an hour and I'll be blogging plenty of them. But first - here's what I asked.

"Nick, when you were elected leader, you said you had a target of doubling the number of Lib Dem MP's by the election after next. Is that target still the same?'

Nick's answer was (with a chuckle...)

'Yes, let's stick with it'.

So that's as straight an answer as you're ever likely to get. To save everyone looking it up, this means we should be aiming to win 126 seats in 2015. Nick didn't reference the fact that electoral reform means The Commons should be reducing from 650 to 600 MP's at the next election, but as the question before hand was about exactly that subject he hadn't forgotten this. So...


Everyone got that? I know targets aren't everyone's cup of tea, but in this case, I like having something to aim at.

Nick then made a more important point (which I'll paraphrase).

At the last election, while we ended up in Government, we had a net loss of 8 seats. While there were specific reasons why we lost some existing seats (I'm guessing that was a dig at Lembit, who was in the audience - Lembit at a London event, weird isn't it?), the real question was "why didn't we win more 'new seats'?".

Polling in May 2010 indicated with a week to go that we'd win 12 seats off Labour in the North - tremendously important if we are to be seen as a national party, not a party with strengths in pockets of the country but no overall appeal. We ended up winning just 2 of them (Burnley and Redcar).

What went wrong?

It seems that very consistently, thousands of people who liked our manifesto, liked Nick in the debates, and thought we were the fairest party, all decided at the last minute that they couldn't quite bring themselves to do it. They questioned if we were a serious choice, their heart said Lib Dem but their head said something else. They couldn't imagine us governing.

They can now. We are now a serious party. A party of government. A party that gets things done.

And as we differentiate ourselves more and more from the Tories over the next 4 years, we will be in a better place to be seen as a serious and credible candidate for more peoples votes.

That's the plan, anyway.

So folks

2015. 126 seats.

Harriet Harman was a disgrace on Newsnight last week. While we're at it, why weren't the Lib Dems invited on?

I see Ed Miliband has made some sensible, dare I see leaderly, comments on the recent unrest - for example:

'The causes are not simple, they are complex... the Labour Party is not going to engage in simplistic explanations about this'.

What a shame he didn't say this before Harriet Harman waded in on Newsnight last week with her facile, holier than thou, party point scoring, tribal nonsense. I was so angry - so angry - that I ended up nodding along with Michael Gove (YES I KNOW!!!).

It's also worth watching if you like a dust up on Newsnight.

Later classic comment from Matthew d'Ancona on Newsnight, as rioters ran amock in Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester at al:

'what we want to know is that people are safe on the streets of London'.

Oh dear.

But I'm also far from satisfied with Newsnight's performance in giving Lib Dem's a voice, both last night (Lib Dem representation: zilch) and during the week as a whole.

Nick Clegg was the first major politician to visit the scenes of the riots. Lynn Featherstone was the 'duty minister' on Sunday when this had all kicked off.

Why - as usual - isn't Newsnight giving us a fair crack of the whip? Answers on a postcard.

And finally: here's a great piece from Zoe Williams of the Psychology of Looting. Everyone should read it.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

When the tears have dried and the looters are locked up, we'll still have to answer the questions 'why?' and 'why now?'

I've resisted the temptation to write about the riots until now, mainly because perched in a holiday cottage in Matlock I thought the only thing I could be sure about was that I hadn't a clue what was actually happening.

This doesn't seem to have stopped the rest of the world. So far I have seen the riots blamed on (in no particular order) the disaffection of the looters in general, their parents, the police, greed, the cuts at large, politicians, the absence of politicians, abolition of the EMA, tuition fees (no, really, someone was claiming that in Bristol), and the lack of available credit on widescreen TV's. In other words, no one has a clue.

Or as Mark Pack rather brilliantly tweeted me this morning:

Everyone saying that events of last few days shows what they always thought was right all along

But the one thing I have disagreed with so far is the complaints about the riots being politicised when (and I paraphrase) 'this is just about mindless thugs doing mindless looting and damaging no one but the innocent'.

While I don't disagree with the characterisation of the looters and arsonists as mindless thugs, we also have to accept that what has happened now has happened for a reason. And there is a reason why it's happened now for the first time really since the early 1980's. And no one (despite some smug 'told you so comments' from individuals on left and right'') saw it coming.

And make no mistake - while it is for the Police (and not the army - well said @davidallengreen) to quell the riots, it will be politicians to find out why it happened, and how to stop it happening again.

Which is why I like the fact some on the left and on the right are now at least asking the questions.

Let's just agree that it's going to take us a while to find the answers. And the answers will be political.

Thursday 4 August 2011

The Hanging Debate. Why (and how) we should get involved

It's got everyone riled, hasn't it?

Guido and the right are pushing it.

We're against (with the odd exception)

There seems a lot of debate about whether we should debate the topic at all as a party (nicely analysed and criticised over at Andrew Emmerson's blog)

Then there is a debate about whether, even if the requisite 100 000 people sign up for the Guido e petition, it should still be debated in Parliament. And while I am set against every aspect of the death penalty, I do think if 100 000+ people ask their elected representatives to debate it, then they should (ideally it will get defeated something like 645-5). I did find the tweeted suggestion earlier today that if someone launched a petition to say that parliamaent should NOT debate the restoration of the death penalty, that would be a petition they'd sign. But i'm not sure stopping debate is very liberal.

Fortunately, an alternative is at hand. Lib Dem Martin Shapland has created an e petition and a camapign calling for Parliament to reatain the band on the death penalty. You can sign up for it by clicking on this link and registering your support. I would encourage each and every person who reads this blog to do so - it takes 2 minutes.

Hats off to Martin Shapland for doing this.

@LizJonesSomalia. Funny. Pointed. Now making money for the DEC. So Brilliant as well.

Liz Jones wrote the most dreadful piece in The Mail the other day ahead of her trip to Somalia to cover the famine.. Brian Kellett wrote the most brilliant reply in response.

Not long after I received a tweet from @lizjonesSomalia saying this:

I'm starving! Nothing like a business class flight to make you hungry.

I was horrified. It took another tweeter to point out that this was in fact a spoof. Which says a lot about me, but also quite a lot about the reputation Liz Jones has developed...

Anyway, the @lizjonesSomalia twitter account has been sending out a stream of very funny tweets for some days now. But I still had this nagging doubt about the morality of the whole thing - for while its aim is clearly to attack Liz Jones and all she stands for, was it doing it at the expense of the famine ridden people of Somalia?

I needn't have worried.

Today I received this tweet.

An important statement about the FAKE Twitter feed @LizJonesSomalia http://bit.ly/q5xRO6

Click on the link and all is revealed - plus the organiser has set up a Just Giving account for the DEC appeal in Somalia.

A few hours later they have been given nearly £7000.

Please do visit the site and if you feel so inclined give them some money. There's no more worthy cause, and hopefully it will give Liz Jones something to think about.

And do follow @lizjonesSomalia as well. It's very funny.

Wednesday 3 August 2011


I'm forever reading news stories where they state the information was elicited by making a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request of a public body. I've always presumed it's incredibly complicated and you have to be a professional journalist/politician/troublemaker-without-portfolio to do it.

I was wrong. It's simple. I can see a whole new vista of fun opening up before me.

Inspired by Tom Watson MP publishing his FOI request to the Cabinet Office (which apparently remains unanswered despite an order from the Information Commissioner to them to comply), I thought I'd find out what was involved (Tom's website has just crashed so I have reproduced his request below).

Surely it can't be as easy as dropping them an e mail, I thought. But it is...

This great website at C4 gives you all the detail, but in essence...

Once you have identified which body might hold the information you require, the next step is to formally lodge a FoI request.

Every public body has a duty to make details of their FoI schemes available on their websites, and the vast majority do. They provide an email address to submit requests to, as well as an address if you wish to send a letter instead.

Once you've found out who to contact, write an email or letter in which you state that you wish to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act. Then go on to detail exactly what it is that you are after, and request that the recipient acknowledges your request so you know it has been officially logged.

It really is that easy...

And in case you can't be bothered to visit Tom Watson's website or its still not working, here is his request - a perfect guide I would suspect to how it should be done.

Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2010 15:06:28 +0000
Subject: Freedom of Information Request – Andy Coulson


Dear Sir/Madam,

Under the Freedom of Information Act, please tell me:

(a) On what date the Cabinet Office approved that Mr Andy Coulson could have the cost of his legal fees paid for by News International in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan.

(b) Who within the Cabinet Office or Number Ten authorised the decision that Mr Andy Coulson could have the cost of his legal fees paid for by News International in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan. Was it a committee that made this decision? Was it Sir Gus O’Donnell? Was it the Prime Minister? Please advise me of precisely who made this decision.

(c) Please provide me with a copy of the minutes of the meeting in which it was agreed that Mr Andy Coulson could have the cost of his legal fees paid for by News International in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan

(d) Please provide me with all (a) written and (b) electronic submissions that were submitted to the Cabinet Office ahead of the decision being taken on whether or not the Cabinet Office should approve News International meeting the cost of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in connection with the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan. This would include all submissions from solicitors, departmental officials, ministers, Mr Andy Coulson and News International.

(e) Please provide me with all advice and guidance, both written and electronic, that has been provided to Mr Andy Coulson in relation to registering the payment of his legal fees by News International as a gift as part of the Cabinet Office’s guidelines for reporting gifts and hospitality.

(f) What internal and external legal advice the Cabinet Office sought ahead of its decision to approve News International’s payment of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan.

(g) Please tell me what pre-meetings were held involving (a) ministers, (b) Cabinet Office officials and (c) Mr Andy Coulson ahead of the final decision being taken to allow News International to meet the cost of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in relation to the trial of Mr Tommy Sheridan.

(h) A copy of the advice (a) requested or (b) submitted from/to the Cabinet Office from the Treasury Solicitors on this matter. This may be provided either electronically or in writing and would cover any emails sent and received.

(i) Please tell me how much News International is paying towards the cost of Mr Andy Coulson’s legal fees in respect of the Tommy Sheridan trial. Given that the Cabinet Office has had to give its approval to this, the information should be readily available and should be made public.

I understand that under the Act, I should be entitled to a response within 20 working days of your receipt of this email.

Some parts of this request may be easier to answer than others. Should this prove to be the case, I would ask that you release available data as soon as possible – rather than hold up the entire request.

I would prefer to receive this information electronically. If the decision is made to withhold some of this data using exemptions within the Act, please inform me of that fact and cite the exemptions used.

If you need any clarification then please contact me at the number below or via email. Under your section 16 duty to provide advice and assistance I would expect you to contact me if you find this request unmanageable in any way.

I would be grateful if you could confirm that you have received this request, and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Yours faithfully,

Tom Watson MP – West Bromwich East

Someone in America has sent me a video from their News Site....

While Louise Mensch has now put the record straight on her Piers Morgan rant, my previous blog post on the topic was picked up by the Newsy news site in the U.S. - and they kindly sent me their take on the whole thing.

No one - not Louise, Piers and especially not Guido Fawkes - comes out of this very well. But it is interesting to see how the row comes over in the US.


And many thanks to Jennifer Apoian at Newsy for sending me the link (though it's running very slowly here so may be easiest to view via this link)

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

Tuesday 2 August 2011

The Daily Telegraph seems to think the future belongs to us.

According to the Daily Telegraph today, the right is in trouble in America.

Also according to the Telegraph today, the left is finished everywhere.

So I guess The Telegraph think that the future belongs to the centrists. Like us.

Good work everyone

One of those occasions when you lose all faith in the press.

Let's imagine the following scenario.

A gunman goes on the rampage somewhere on the outskirts of a capital city - let's imagine it's Windsor.

He's shooting dozens of children and young people who are all camping there on a retreat. In a desperate attempt to escape, many of the children throw themselves into the Thames to try and escape, where the gunman pursues them, shooting into the water.

Seeing all this unfold before their unbelieving eyes, a couple on the opposite bank drive their boat TOWARDS the scene, and brave their lives to scoop the victims out of the water and take 40 of them to safety.

We'd probably know about it , wouldn't we?

In fact I'd wager the papers would have gone quite big on it. There would be in depth analysis of their actions, endless praise, they would be (quite rightly) feted from the rooftops and the feel good factor they generated would probably get the Daily Mail to tie their actions into an immediate rise in house prices.

Well, last week, in Oslo, exactly this scenario unfolded.

A couple were camping on an island near to where Anders Behring Breivik went on the rampage. Seeing what was happening, they did indeed untie their boat, speed over to the island and rescued 40 people from the water, apparently ignoring the danger they put themselves in. Afterwards, they found bullet holes in their boat.

So why haven't we heard about this brave young couple?

Is it because Hege Dalen and her spouse, Toril Hansen don't quite fit with the idealised image of the stereotypical heroic married couple - because they are gay?

I really hope it isn't.

But I'm struggling to find another reason.

You can read their amazing story on this link

Please do send this story on to as many as people as possible. It's truly awful that their heroism is going unpublished.

Shoesmith's won again.

As this link reveals (thanks to @PaulWaugh for tweeting it and the Education Law Blog for posting it), Sharon Shoesmith has won her latest victory in court over her dismissal from Haringey Council. Here's the entire piece.

The Supreme Court yesterday refused permission for either Haringey Borough Council or the Secretary of State to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision in Shoesmith v OFSTED and others [2011] EWCA Civ 642. The Court of Appeal declared that the Secretary of State’s directions, insofar as they purported to remove Ms Shoesmith from her position as Haringey’s Director of Children’s Services, were unlawful and, further, that Haringey’s decision to dismiss Ms Shoesmith was unlawful. See 11KBW’s website for further information on that decision. However, this is not the final word on the matter because the question of damages is still to be decided by the Adminstrative Court (if not agreed between the parties) and there are also other proceedings stayed pending the outcome of this case, including in the Employment Tribunal.

However, can i go back to my original post on this.

I think whether her dismissal was lawful or not is not the point.

She should have just done the decent thing. And resigned.

Monday 1 August 2011

Radical: It's the new black.

Have you noticed how everyone is pushing the notion of needing more radical thinking this week?

It's featured in one of the most popular reads in the Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen.

It's featured in the Observer.

I've even been at it myself.

So what a relief that Charlie Brooker provides a more balanced view.

For example (talking of Steve Hilton...):

"Anyway, most of the focus thus far has been on Hilton's laid-back dress sense and the Professor Branestawm wackiness of his ideas, which started out funny but seem less tittersome the more extreme they become. But what sticks in my craw is the sheer stinking, blunted crapness of them"

And he's got a point.

This is simply the best blog post I have read by anyone, anywhere, all year. Please read it.

Hats off to Brian Kellet at www.briankellett.net

Yesterday Liz Jones wrote the most appalling article in (you've guessed it) The Mail.

Today Brian Kellet has written the most brilliant reply imaginable.

Get a cup of Tea, sit back and enjoy.

PS Everyone should follow the v funny @LizJonesSomalia on Twitter. If only for how much she must hate it.

You can't get enough of Nick Clegg, Louise Mensch and Boris Johnson. Though not necessarily at the same time.

Yes, it's August 1st, 147 days til Christmas, and time for a round up of the top 5 most read blog posts for July ( which had once again a record number of monthly page views, thanks to all who came and marvelled).

So, here they are in all their glory.

1. Clegg's letter to members who responded on the hacking question

Easily the most popular post of the month. I suppose it might have helped that Lib Dem Voice linked to it...

2. Dear Louise Mensch. It's not one rule for Prince William and another for Piers Morgan

Yes. I know she apologised to Piers Morgan last week. Maybe she reads my blog?

3. Video: Car crash interview - What happened when Boris first got reminded about his description of the phone hacking scandal as 'codswallop'..

No, I'm not bored of watching it yet either.

4. I asked Andrew Neil to take Diane Abbott to task on This Week about her offensive tweet. This is what happened next...

I wonder if it's still there? I hope not.

5. Mike Tuffrey understands the need for us to be radical.

Radical thinking seems like a popular theme across all the blogs this week.

And there we are, with posts on Rebekah Brooks, Sharon Shoesmith, Johann Hari and Ed Miliband just missing out (get used to it Ed, it won't be the last time...)

Thanks all for your support.