Friday, 16 December 2005
The Liberals showing in the last general election may have been the best result for 80 years or some such nonsense, but it had absolutely nothing to do with Charles Kennedy. Indeed it was in spite of him. It had everything to do with Blair leading the Labour Party and Howard the Conservatives. So basically, I am just pointing out that, amid this joyless Lib Dem suicide attempt, there is absolutely no substance behind the claim that Kennedy is safe because he is the finest Liberal leader since Lloyd George.
I could wax long and lyrical about Kennedy's political inadequacies, but frankly I have neither the will nor the time. He and I both know that the election result was a fake and that the nation is no more likely to elect a Hebridean to Downing Street than they are to elect me.
What really gets me thinking is why Cameron is fuelling the fire and hastening his demise. I mean, why remove one unelectable and highly unappealing man, only to risk his being replaced by someone less unelectable.
Perhaps his cunning plan is to make the Liberals more appealing so that Gordon Brown looks like a dinosaur rather than just a caveman. Maybe he thinks that he needs both a Conservative and Liberal resurgence to really put the sqeaks into Labour.
I haven't quite worked it out yet so I shall watch this particular strategy with interest, especially as I have to defeat the Liberals in my District Council election in May. What if my opponent takes the advice and turns Blue?
Monday, 12 December 2005
You might just figure out that this is a silly little test thing and the link should work so that you too can have your character summed up (pretty accurately) in a few lines. "Despise" is a bit strong, but perhaps any of my previous bosses might leave an appropriate comment. Otherwise I would be fairly happy. Come to think of it, that's probably why I was never such a success in the Army!!
***Your Birthdate: May 7***
You are an island.
You don't need anyone else to make you happy. (No, Lara, honestly I do)
And though you see yourself as a loner, people are drawn to you. (Come a bit closer, I can't see you)
Deep and sensitive, you tend to impress others with your insights. (That's why you read this blog you see)
You also tend to be psychic - so listen to that inner voice!
Your strength: Your self sufficiency
Your weakness: You despise authority (teeny bit strong!)
Your power color: Maroon (Maroon??????)
Your power symbol: Hammer
Your power month: July
What Does Your Birth Date Mean?http://www.blogthings.com/whatdoesyourbirthdatemeanquiz/
Many thanks to James Hellyer for the idea. It seems he is born only 6 days before me, and to be honest I rather like his description better than my own:
Your Birthday: May 1st
You are a natural born leader, even if those leadership talents haven't been developed yet.
You have the power and self confidence to succeed in life, and your power grows daily.
Besides power, you also have a great deal of creativity that enables you to innovate instead of fail.
You are a visionary, seeing the big picture instead of all of the trivial little details.
Your strength: Your supreme genius
Your weakness: Your inappropriate sensitivity
Your power color: Gold
Your power symbol: Star
Your power month: January
Sunday, 11 December 2005
I saw it on Newsnight first. “Money” shouted Brown to Blair. “Money” he shouted again. I have watched Brown deliberately leave Blair to die many times, but something has changed and he has come furiously alive.
It is very possible that 2006 might have been an interesting political year but until this week that interest might conceivably have completely excluded the Tories. Now, we are in for one of the most exciting political years for a decade and the Tories are the cause and centre of it.
David Cameron has provoked Gordon Brown into action more than he will ever know. There are now two public school boys blocking Gordon’s path to Number 10 and he will do his utmost to kill both of them. Never, NEVER, have the Tories needed Blair to hang onto power more than they do now. The longer Blair holds Brown out of Number 10, the more likely Cameron will survive.
The only military political analogy I ever permit myself to use is that of “winning the fire-fight”. The fire-fight starts when you attack the opposition. For 15 years we, the Tories, have attacked Labour many times but have always failed to stand firm against the inevitable onslaught that follows. This time, it must be different.
To understand how this Labour onslaught will look, you simply must read the following article by Andrew Rawnsley in today's Observer. It is the article I would have written myself but he is paid to get their first. (As an aside, with talent like this in the market place, one wonders what on earth the Telegraph were thinking about when they recruited that pompous, aging, out of touch tosser Simon Heffer. I hope this venerable paper is not losing it just when things get interesting.)
David Cameron has provoked Gordon Brown into action more than he will ever know. There are now two public school boys blocking Gordon’s path to Number 10 and he will do his utmost to kill both of them. Never, NEVER, have the Tories needed Blair to hang onto power more than they do now. The longer Blair holds Brown out of Number 10, the more likely Cameron will survive.
Cameron must call off any tactic designed to alienate Blair from his own party. He needs Blair where he is for as long as possible. He needs to let the Labour back benchers defeat him and “punish” him. If Cameron saves Blair, he will unify Labour behind Brown, will hasten Blair’s departure and the moment when Brown moves on to kill him. As you read this article, you can be sure of one thing – the Granita deal is off. Brown comes first and Blair’s leadership is over. It can be clean or messy. Blair alone decides whether he keeps his political life.
So what is going to happen? Well I am no oracle, but I’m prepared to make some suggestions:
Brown will harness the first opportunity to defeat Blair in the House;
He will then tell Blair that he can go or be pushed;
He will then push him;
Game over for Blair by April 06;
Brown should be in place by June /July, but only after a bruising and divisive battle against a Blairite youth candidate (Milliband or someone);
Brown will then risk all as early as he can, by committing to bring troops home from Iraq by Christmas;
He will take flack, but he will guess that he has time to recover but what he aims to recover is the trust of a large support base that has drifted away and potentially even stopped voting;
He will clear out the Blairites;
He will believe that if he can persuade the British people that they have had the change they appear to want, they will cease to hanker after the Tories.
Here perhaps is the only opportunity for Cameron. Just as the Tories have traditionally veered to the right when the pressure mounts, Brown will sprint to the left. Its instinctive. He won’t be able to help himself.
So between now and the moment of Blair’s demise, Cameron must sink as many anchors into the political centre ground as he possibly can. To do so will further force Brown to go East, as they used to say. I am really guessing here, but could it possibly be the case that Blair might actually try to help Cameron by holding on as long as he can?
So here is the most fascinating dilemma for Cameron and the Tories. Opposing Brown is the best chance they will have of returning to Government, but just how long do you want that battle to last. Just how long a fire-fight do you think you can endure, survive and win. 2010 just can't come quickly enough!
2005 has offered us the 60th Anniversary of the end of the 2nd World War and the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. 2006 offers us the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Mozart.
If Cameron is to survive, then he will need the balls and determination of Churchill, the appeal and skill of Nelson and the sheer youthful genius of Mozart.
There, how’s that for a sign off!!
Thursday, 8 December 2005
Very strikingly, the media are listening and watching attentively. Indeed more attentively than I have ever seen. It’s not just that they might appreciate a more interesting political climate. They sense something very substantial and they are communicating it well. We simply can't underestimate how important it will be to have the BBC, Times and the Sun being pleasant to us again. Even Jonathan Friedland's article in the Guardian, which I thoroughly enjoyed, couldn't hide its begrudging respect. Cameron is as comparable to Bush as Blair was to Clinton. All he actually describes is a man capable of presenting what the electorate want to see whilst holding his party together long enough to carry it off. I don’t personally subscribe to that view, but that’s another matter.
I agreed with George Pascoe Watson of the Sun who was very impressed by his PMQ’s performance. "He so unnerved Blair that he forgot to congratulate him until it was too late..." It may be a small point but it speaks volumes about how little control and poise Blair had at that moment.
BBC’s Newsnight spotted Brown actually helping Blair during his answers (by leaning forward and shouting the word “money” at him). Yes Brown helped Blair. What on earth is going on?
Most interesting is that his opponents are at sixes and sevens over how best to attack him. The more divided they are the weaker the attacks and the more likely he will be to survive them. More than ever New Labour need their pagers and their robot controllers at Millbank, but they are gone and it shows.
They really have nowhere to turn. Inverse snobbery won't work as it represents a world to which an ever increasing number of people aspire in order to break free from the appalling state and inexperience won't wash as he leads a team full of experience and talent.
In my opinion Labour are about to make a hash of it. They appear to be coming to rest of the "paint him as a right wing wolf in sheep’s clothing" forgetting that that is precisely what they have leading them and precisely what the electorate have told us three times that they want.
Its the ideal solution. Cameron spends the next three years confidently espousing compassion and tolerance in a way that looks right and will reassure and attract many, whilst Labour constantly remind us that he is right wing at heart.
We must stop focussing on Blair and Brown and analyse the electorate.
Within the appointments made so far, the real pressure has been placed firmly with DD. DD is now in check mate. With his reputation now so highly publicised during the campaign, he simply must perform loyally or he can be disposed of without any damage to the Party. Liam Fox would then wrap up the right and step in.
Very not happy over Maude's re-appointment as Party Chairman. That is DC's first mistake. Maude is thoroughly un-intelligent and unappealing. He is sycophantic, slimy, smarmy and an opportunist. Portillo, to his credit, eventually had the good grace to concede that he could never be the acceptable face of compassionate conservatism. Maude should do the same. It is like watching a fuddy duddy with a comb-over trying to disco dance.
It bloody annoys me that Defense is considered a non job. It is not and I am pleased to see Liam Fox (my old boss and the other man who made a considerable impact during the contest) accept it regardless of how he may or may not be feeling. Yes it is not one of the biggies, but Liam is shrewd and plays a cunning game. Liam knows that having Hague back is worth the pain and he gets to play very closely with Hague which he will enjoy enormously. Defense and Foreign Affairs always go hand in hand.
It is to our undying shame that we Tories allowed the abominable Geoff Who(n) to survive the War. With ever increasing pressure on Iraq withdrawal, the mindless regionalisation of our regiments and political correctness costing lives, Liam will most certainly have a stage and with good advice could uncover all sorts of crap that this Govt forces our troops to endure. They are a naturally conservative audience and long for someone to offer them the chance to vent their spleen over their treatment over the years. (I was one of them in Kosovo in 1999 - a complete sham of an expedition and a gratuitous grandstanding exercise by Mr Bliar. Don't get me started!). Woo the generals and the troops, Liam, and you will have fun while you wait for the tide to turn in your favour.
So much more to follow.
Tuesday, 22 November 2005
Both men are well reheased by this point in the campaign so there was nothing new, but the discernible difference between the two men in effort, fluency and appeal was very clear.
I liked that both men had space to answer why they were taking the views they do, on health, education, drugs, crime, etc. Davis continues to appeal to the Tories. Cameron is speaking over the top of the Tories to the rest of the country. Davis perceives a battle to be fought and won, Cameron sees an electorate needing to be persuaded and won over. At this point in time, leading the party is pointless unless you are going to lead the country.
Cameron has an interesting view on drugs, as I have commented on previously, and he is going to have to work hard to win the argument. But why does miss out the third pillar of the required strategy. Education, good; rehab, super. But where is the ruthless pursuit of dealers and their supply chain.
It was the same with the Bradford shooting question. Both said we mustn't make policy in the aftermath and both wanted proper sentencing, but why did neither pledge to hunt down and remove illegal guns from our society.
Anyway, apart from making me keener than ever be on that platform, the upshot of it all is that I believe that only one of them will lead a team, make the team work effectively, speak a language that ordinary people warm to rather than run from, and stand firmly on the centre ground, which coincidentally is where the majority of the electorate are currently standing.
I appreciate that Cameron does not have it all and may not yet have all the policies and detail that we need, but I have heard enough to believe that a) he will allow talent to flourish, b) that they will be policies that challenge the way the party has been seen for so long and c) that he has the ability to communicate and persuade agreement with whatever idea the Party and policy makers decide needs to be promoted.
Most importantly, I am voting positively i.e. I am voting for the person I want as leader rather than against the person I don't. I hope that Davis will remain on the scene, but I suspect it won't happen.
I have now looked him straight in the eye, shaken his hand and voted - for David Cameron.
Monday, 21 November 2005
On my local news just now a question that I have been asking all day has finally been answered.
A man from Peterborough travelling in Pakistan and apparently following the cricket, tragically died from a heart attack in recent days and as a result THE ENGLISH NATIONAL CRICKET TEAM WORE BLACK ARMBANDS FOR AN ENTIRE DAY.
I am of course very sad for the family of the deceased man. Their loss is most probably grievous and certainly sudden and very distressing, but on no level is it cause for a national team to sport black armbands of mourning during a days Test cricket. Toast him in the bar by all means. Celebrate his passion and commitment of course, but do not under any circumstances allow such an event to affect the concentration of our national team.
It is almost as bad as the moment last week when Marcus Trescothick publicly considered returning home because his father-in-law had fallen off a ladder. I mean what on earth was anyone doing even telling him that the incident had taken place let alone advising him to fly home.
Where is our moral fortitude? You showed it in your decision to carry on with the tour despite terror concerns and the devastating earthquake. Black armbands for the thousands killed in the disputed territory, but sadly not for a 40 year old man from Peterborough.
Now get on with the cricket.
They capture all the humour, passion, farce and beguilment that the originals do, but in a modern and different setting. The scene in the first one where the lead man (can't remember names) is crawling around the studio floor under the cameras listening to the gossip and being watched from the editor's suite, is pure modern farce and no different to having two characters on stage and having to believe that neither know the other is there.
I have read some cultural snobs taking the view that it is rubbish and a violation of the great Bard's work. On the contrary. Shakespeare is said to have written timeless pieces, stories so fundamentally basic in their appreciation of human life that they will last forever.
If that is the case, then he should stand the test of a thousand interpretations and if some of them see some of our finest young actors bringing him to life in a new and relevant way with a twist fit for 2005 then so be it.
In this one (Taming of the Shrew) Cruella De Ville is just married to Kurgan (from Highlander) and they are trying to "tame" each other!
Get over it Will. If you're here forever, we've got to have our fun too!
Sunday, 20 November 2005
I have thought through the drugs debate a thousand times and every time I do it, I end up having no option but to ban alchohol and cigarettes. All drugs kill either directly or as a result of the decisions you take whilst in the altered state you end up in. Even with my minimal knowledge, however, I know that fags and booze kill more people each year than "drugs" ever will, cause more damage to people and property and cost the taxpayer an arm and a leg in all sorts ways.
The upshot of it all is that criminalising cigarettes and alchohol is not possible, so the importance of making our hard drugs policy make proper sense is beyond parallel or the whole thing lacks integrity and authority and betrays millions of young people.
However before I redirect you, and whilst I agree with much of what you are going to read, I insist that it does not make me soft on drugs. I hate the things and the despair and damage that they cause. But they are an evil reality and we have to deal with them.
The laws surrounding drugs and alchohol are the first real laws that teenagers probably deal with and from them (the laws) they get their first impression of politics and law making. If you tell the average 17 year old that ecstacy and heroin are classed together and carry similar punishments, they will laugh and from that point forward they will have not the slightest respect for anything else we adults say.
Until such time as public opinion allows for the complete prohibition of nicotine and alchohol, drug classification must be completely overhauled to account for reality as well as medical science; education and rehabilitation must be truly effective in its attempt to stop young people falling and picking up those who do; and our police must be ruthless in their pursuit of drug dealers and producers.
I am lucky, I do not have an addictive nature, I have always derived particular pleasure from standing out from the crowd and I dislike the notion of losing control. Compulsory drug testing in the Army kept me inhibited during my twenties, but even once released into the world, and working in Holland for a year, I still had no desire to play with the damn stuff.
But I have two children and nothing worries me more than how I am going to help them navigate a safe path through a world in which drugs are now rife and the norm.
Here's the link. http://bigtommygspeaks.blogspot.com/2005/11/guest-post-on-drugs.html
Saturday, 19 November 2005
Paxman has "interviewed" (grand word for a rather pitiful experience) both of the Leadership contenders. Clearly Cameron enjoyed the experience but judging from the sweat on Davis's neck, he did not. The only news worthy item to emerge from it was Davis's backtracking on his tax cuts promise just days earlier, but nobody seemed to notice or care.
The Editor of Newsnight proclaims that "..it's right that they should be subjected to detailed scrutiny of their principles and policies."
Indeed, but sadly JP so loves to bathe in his own cynicism that he rarely gets round to the process of scrutiny.
He may be entertaining but only in a medieval witch-finding sort of way. Actually he is predictable, belligerent and sneering and is largely responsible for the way that many people now view politcs and those who pursue it.
It is a sad but very accurate indictment of the BBC that he remains their witch-finder general.
P.S. I have never quite understood why anyone mocks Howard for his infamous JP interview. It was masterful politics. In fourteen answers he never once lied or lost his nerve. He beat JP hands down and should be immensely proud of it.
Sunday, 13 November 2005
1. I am ashamed to say that I have prayed to false gods. On Tuesday I thanked the Lord of Little Britain for 5 precious tickets to the live tour. On Wednesday morning I thanked the Lord of precocious pop stars for 4 fabulous tickets to see Robbie Williams in Vienna next year. I also thanked the good Lord of internet webs for allowing me through the net thing before it all crashed and ended in chaos.
2. By Wednesday afternoon, however, my punishment came in spades. As I lay on the dentist's chair, I prayed out loud to the divine lord of gums only to be referred directly to the Gods of Nurofen and Paracetamol. I am in pain and have spent much of the weekend sleeping. Perhaps I deserve it.
3. On the 2nd of November we went to Kimbolton School to watch the world famous Kimbolton Fireworks celebrate 400 yrs of the Gunpowder Plot with the the most nagnificent 20min display set to music called "A Celestial Inferno". Fire rained down for 20 minutes and I have to say, it was the best six quid I have spend in a long time. The music was great, the sequencing lovely and the crescendo perfect. I was therefore sad to hear that a few days later, their display in Kettering went wrong and left people in hospital. Fireworks are dangerous, but fabulously beautiful. Stand well back next time.
4. The cricket is going well in Pakistan. I hope we can hold our batting together. As always our bowling and fielding is efficient and elegant. I love the noise the crowd make in the sub continent. I love their passion. I am also prepared to accept that England's footballers were more than impressive last night. Lets see where we go.
5. I took Oliver and Jasper to our village Remembrance Parade today. Oliver is now in the Cubs so he paraded from the Cub Hut to Church behind their banner and Jasper and I spectated. It is the only day in the year when I dust off my medals (NI and Kosovo) and pop them on. I do feel a little odd but hey, I earnt the damn things so why shouldn't I wear them once a year. Anyone who takes the piss just exposes their own inadequacy rather than my vanity. I let Jasper wear my miniatures!!
6. I am looking forward to the Tory leadership husting in Cambrdige which I am going to. I know who I want to vote for but I just want to hang on until I see them live.
7. I have a monstrous amount of work to do next week!!
I have been in many Minister / Civil service meetings and a good number have come up with some very silly policies indeed. Thankfully they tended to be laughed out of court and never heard of again. This one slipped through and one just wonders who came up with it and why in all the months that a team worked on it, nobody dared say "this is tosh".
After many years of the most despicable politicisation of the Civil Service, one wonders whether they are finally biting back. In the same week that Sir Christopher Meyer publishes a book of such brazen slutishness, a team of Education Department civil servants put a minister in front of the media to announce that the acts of walking, talking and pooing would now be learnt by curriculum. That the very fusion of a baby's new brain links would be subject to Government targets.
If this was a joke by departmental officials, then it was bloody funny and I look forward to many more. If however, it was not, then we may be approaching the most traumatic and disturbing part of a Government's downfall. You see it is instinct that whenever you are falling, you grab at literally anything you can see to break your fall. It is now that civil servants trying to lighten their day by making facetious remarks in Ministerial meetings must be on their guard.
In the meatime we can see where this government is going and although we know that we are all responsible and that we have just had our chance to retire them, we know now that the kindest solution to this desparate Government is the bullet. Lets just hope that nothing too serious happens before we work out where we put the gun.
Sunday, 6 November 2005
Revealed today on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph is the most hateful and spiteful Government policy I have ever known - to increase the council tax of those who have a nice view from their house. Forgive me for being a little traditional, but I thought taxes were for paying for communal services, not payment and punishment for quality of life.
Even the thought of taxing the quality of a house rather than its existence is beyond belief:
It taunts and smacks those who have dared to succeed and prosper;
It terrorises and wards-off those who so much as aspire to succeed and prosper;
It rewards irresponsibility and compliance;
It seemingly advocates the destruction of open spaces (if we can't have them, no-one can);
It further condemns the English countryside, farming and those who live there and manage and protect it;
It could prove to be the ultimate irony in the West Lothian question (remember the poll tax trial in Scotland);
but worst of all, it feeds that most base human instinct of envy.
The petty, nasty chippiness of old Labour has been well hidden these past few years, but it is clear now that as Blair's power starts to wane, the old Labour power bases of the ODPM and Chancery are coming to life again. Only Prescott and Cooper and Brown could propose this sort of vicious, hateful and hypocritical taxation policy.
The combination of New Labour hypocrisy and sleaze combined with the prospect of an ever more oppressive and control-crazed Old Labour government should, in the hands of a competent politician, see them consigned to opposition for another 20 years.
For the government to advocate a policy of this nature is to declare war on millions of Britain's finest people. People who have built this country on hard work, investment, job creation, economic growth, competitive spirit, clean living and family values. It makes the poll tax look positively reasonable.
So it is now, right this very moment, that a Conservative leadership candidate can put Labour, new and old, to the sword in a single stroke and win back the millions of people who deserted in 1997. This is the most outstanding opportunity we have had to wake those swing voters and non voters from their slumber and in the hands of Mr David Cameron could prove conclusive, not just now in this contest, but in a much greater contest in three to four years time.
Friday, 4 November 2005
1. If I am honest, I think DD has gained ground tonight and has magnified DC 's problems of substance and policy.
2. I think they both upheld a terrific showcase of modern conservatism and we'll be glad to have either and happy in the knowledge that if not now, DC will be huge soon.
3. DD managed to regain lost reputation on public speaking and enthusiasm and conviction. He will have done more to turn Tories still trying to decide.
4. But there lies the real debate, the one that the programme only got to in the final 5 mins. Both have some great ideas and differ in principle only marginally. The difference lies not in what you say, but in HOW you say it.
5. My admiration for DC lies in his determination to focus on the real election and to set a tone that cannot be thrown back at him in months and years to come. He knows that he must use this time to look like the sort of person that can win the votes of the influential swing voters, because that's how you gain power.
6. My fear with DD is that he has focussed to much on appealing to the Tory membership that when the real crunch comes he has made his bed and will have to lie in it.
7. So the question is this, can DC win it without creating a lasting image of a policy lightweight or can DD win it without becoming a screaming harpie? They have both chosen their furrow and are sticking to it with admirable determination. So it is now for the party membership, rightly observed as having an average age of over 65, to make its choice.
8. With every day of this particular campaign, I genuinely feel that people and media beyond the party are listening and watching in a way not seen for a decade. That is both a good and remarkable thing. It was said in 1997 that the next Tory PM had not been elected yet, and I think they were right.
9. Just remember, if Tony could beat Gordon, so can David. David Cameron that is.
Wednesday, 2 November 2005
Apparently he wants to continue being in public life so that he can use the fourtenn years of experience he has gained. Fourteen years of experience which has led him to conclude that he can use his position to do as he pleases.
Hard to know where we could make best use of you, Blunkers. Mandy's got the traditional job for people with no discretion.
Tony (Lou) and Dave (Andy)
Tuesday, 1 November 2005
Blunkett says: "This is a straight political battle with the Conservative Party and their allies in the media, and decency."
Never mind the Conservatives and their legions of media allies!!!!!!! (where, who??), but you are right, Blunkett, it a straight forward battle WITH decency. You hang on in there, mate, there's nothing like a rotting political corpse to remind the electorate of past indiscretions. I am sure Mr Brown will be sympathy personified when he takes over, too!
"No interviews on the street. You know the press code!"
"I've warned you, you know the press code!"
So cool. It's beyond irony. Sanctimonious prick.
The Telegraph have dealt with this issue superbly over the past few weeks, particularly this article by Tom Utley http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2005/10/28/do2802.xml
Blunkett is mad, ridiculous and a power crazed minister. I am sure there will be lots of sympathy for the man (not here of course) but the tax payer and voter really shouldn't be subjected to this farce.
Bye bye Bonkers Blunkett.
Thursday, 27 October 2005
It would be easy to blame George and it would be easy to say that he didn't deserve what was coming to him, but it is hard not to overlook the astonishing talent that he gave the 20th Century and understand that in the balance of the human psyche, what one side has in abundance, another will be dangerously lacking. Genius comes at a cost and very few make it to a ripe old age.
So as other young sportsmen are hitting the scene with talent oozing from every pore, we hope that they will listen to the George Best story and chose a better path. Where Owen has succeeded, we hope Rooney will follow. How many more must we lose to the perils of alchohol?
Equally, how many more stunningly good British footballers must we exclude from the world stage through our illogical and stubborn reluctance to play as Britain rather than its constituent parts and how many times might we have won that blessed gold cup had we fielded the finest players from our island in a single team?
Ryan Giggs, Kenny Dalgliesh, George Best and god knows how many more (I am no football expert) have been excluded for no good reason but pride. I am guessing here, but I genuinely believe that Ryan Giggs has been the difference between semi finals and winning in the last three major trophy competitions. You mix together the half decent Scotland and England teams of the late seventies and tell me we wouldn't have won something.
It annoys me to think that such talent never makes it to these great festivals, so sure for the European Cup let's stay as we are, but for the World Cup we must play as Great Britain.
Wednesday, 26 October 2005
They hold this status because they are individual choices without individual consequences. There can be no-one left in this country who, placed in a non threatening environment, would not admit to knowing they are very bad for you. But everyday millions of people are able to choose to smoke or drink without immediately experiencing the cost of the consequences of their actions. By which I mean of course, that because their health care from cradle to grave is free they are able to deploy that most human of instincts "head in the sand" regardless of how quickly they may be advancing towards the grave.
Only in Britain today could we tie ourselves in knots over such an issue. Only in a Britain that demands its rights without comprehending nor being prepared to accept its responsibilities.
In the Army we had something called "self inflicted injury" - a chargeable offence no less and from which there was no escape. Doing anything, either through ignorance or intention, that rendered one unfit for duty, ranging from sun stroke through inebriation to breaking a leg in a thoughtless or unplanned action, was "self inflicted" and punished. Soldiers (and officers) knew and accepted this and it made for a responsible unit of people (albeit after making your first and only mistake - I for example tried to show off (in front of a girl, now my wife, poor thing!) by climbing a rope in a drunken state and ended up descending so fast I severely burnt my hands. Self inflicted, no sympathy and punished!)
So my first observation is this. If people are to be free to choose to accelerate their demise, they should do so at no cost to to their fellow man. The cost of their inevitable health care should be starkly represented everytime they light a fag or crack open a beer. This can be achieved in any number of ways including raising the price of cigarettes to the degree that you wince when they ring through the till, to insurance based health care with premiums paid according to your CHOSEN lifestyle.
My second observation is more fundamental. The right to choose is crucial to the process of comprehending responsibility and this applies to all spheres in life. Only through the ability to make mistakes can we hope to learn or be motivated into thinking more closely about the decisions we make. Removing choice is a backward step and to be avoided at all cost, especially by Government.
My third would be this. The market place has an astonishing ability to turn trends and fashions into money. So answer me this - if there are many millions more non smokers than smokers, and if the smell of smoke is so distasteful, why has nobody created a chain of non smoking restuarants, cafes and bars? By any measurement clientele would be queuing round the block and applications for employment would take weeks to stack let alone process. Independents would flourish into chains and the concept would in itself regulate smokers into dark and smelly corners. I find it impossible to believe that the market has missed this. In any town or village it is possible for a bar owner to advertise the fact that he is smoke free and reap the apparent reward, so where is the pressure and why don't they?
If societal pressure can make you feel inadequate and wretched just for wearing flared trousers or for accepting hefty fees for speaking at a charity event, I am damn sure it can let you know what it thinks of smoking. My wife and children leave me with no uncertainty whatsoever about what they think of my smoking.
Sadly the reality is that we are Governed by a regime that increasingly wants to regulate society into obeyance and they govern a people who have lost the ability or desire to regulate themselves.
If nicotine and cigarettes are as dangerous as is now commonly asserted they must be classified as a drug along side cannabis and banned outright. If they are not then they must be priced to cover health care costs and left to society at large to determine their acceptability.
Stop nannying us, Blair, and govern us.
Saturday, 15 October 2005
Oliver just loves the Cubs. They do exciting and grown-up things. They achieve things and are rewarded for them. They adhere to simple rules of courtescy and discipline. They have lots of fun but balance it with an orderliness and respect that helps children to identify the boundaries between civility and incivility. The supervision of Arkelah is friendly, fun but very firm.
Oliver loves it, and all the children love it, because it is the only place he goes to away from the home that gives him these things and he feels happy and comfortable and safe.
Why does his school fail him in this way? Why does the education system fail all of our children in this way? Why has the nation's most important public service taken the moral cowardice of teachers and an inability to maintain discipline and turned it into a liberal policy of "self expression"? Why are we incapable of seeing the link between this pathetic culture of appeasement and the social malaise that is slowly enveloping our culture. Why do we stand aside and allow ourselves to feel intimidated while our teenagers re-enact Sodom and Gomorrah in all our village, town and city centres each weekend.
Well done Oliver. I am exceptionally proud of you.
Friday, 14 October 2005
No, no, no!
Firstly, this is a process to win an election to lead the Conservatives and the methods required are different to those needed to win an election to lead the country.
Cameron alone, however, understands that if he is to stand any chance of converting success here into the higher sphere of a general election, then he must set his tone accordingly from the outset. He needs lots of non-Tories to tell their Tory friends that if he were leader they would vote for him in 2009.
Fox and Davis are pitching to the Tories alone and will not recover from the harsh tones they use to win this first small step.
This is the whole point, we Conservatives must look beyond our own ranks for the answers to electoral success.
Secondly, get over the Eton crap. Deep down in places we don't talk about much, everyone wants to look up to their leader. We want them to be different and we want them to convey the authority of Britain and all that that means to us.
I knew Officers in the Army whose entire leadership ethos was about being their soldiers' friend. They wanted to be perceived as being the same as them, and would wear similar clothes and go out drinking with them. But what they were basically saying was "I'm not confident enough to lead you and to take decisions" and the soldiers knew this and would take advantage of it. On Operations at the sharp end, these leaders were f****d. Fox and Davis, Davis especially, want people to think they are the same as them. Council estate born and bred, harsh life etc. It sounds good, but its rubbish because it fails to represent the aspirations of the electorate.
Thirdly, Cameron has fixed on a significant political reality - there is no great political problem in Britain at the moment. The electorate are moaning and whingeing a bit but actually the majority are still pleasantly insulated from politics and well enough off to buy their way out of trouble if they really need or have to. Harsh, bold fighting talk may impress dyed-in-the-wool Tories but it takes the general electorate out of their comfort zone. We can see where things are going but nobody is ready to bring in the Infantry. We are not ready for nor do we have a need for a Churchill or a Thatcher and that is what Davis is trying to be - a man on a mission without a cause.
What people actually want is another, fresh, clean Blair. And don't lets deny that we Tories would all have loved Blair to have been a Tory all these years. If he had had a proper Blue Chancellor behind him, just think where we would be by now.
Everyone who comments on the issue of imprisonment appears to see black or white. “Bang ‘em up” or “forgive and forget”. On so many levels I would normally concur, but in my old age I am starting to discern shades of grey.
When I was 21, I was lucky enough to be entrusted with the training of young infantry recruits. We took into our care teenage vagrants and self confessed petty criminals. They slouched and sloped and hid all manner of self hatred and loathing behind a veil of threats and posturing. 26 weeks later they left the Depot with their heads held high and with utter belief and pride in themselves and each other. We had affected this change through a combination of challenge, hardship, punishment, reward and encouragement and by making the length of their training a matter over which they had an element of control. It remains one of the most enjoyable jobs I ever had.
I call this my flagship policy because of all the mad things I have thought up over the years this one continues to stand up to scrutiny (I think!).
Some believe that prison works and some believe it does not, but most people believe that the ideal is a prison that is tough, reforming and deterring, because we want criminals to pay for their crime but we want them to stop doing it when they come out.
Many people understand that prison is great while it lasts. The criminal is out of sight and out of mind. He is off the streets and poses no public danger. But everyone knows that prison is little more than a glorified crime school and that the vast majority of people coming out are better equipped to carry on where they left off.
Currently, we imprison people for a length of time. It is an uninspiring endurance test, its contestants stripped of any responsibility or control. They are clothed, fed and watered, they do nothing for themselves and have no means to do anything purposeful. Sure, they do run lessons in English, Maths and woodwork but most prison lessons differ from school only in the fact that you can’t play truant.
So you see, this is where my idea is a radical departure from the norm and yet starts to address the shades of grey between the throw away the key mob and the community service liberals.
I believe that you can give prisoners a role and responsibility in their punishment and reform by placing the length of term they serve very firmly in their own court. I know of no man or woman who possesses a complete education, so it stands to reason that any convicted criminal being sentenced to prison could be sentenced not to a period of time but to the attainment of the next most appropriate level of education and in an appropriate quantity of subjects.
Think about it just for a moment.
It is important to be clear that I do not propose that all classes of crime are sentenced in this way. Pedophiles, murderers, rapists etc will always attract the harshest time based sentences. But it is other crimes such as burglary, theft, shoplifting, assault, joy riding, fraud, drugs and so on to which this scheme offers so much. They do go to prison, but their relatively short sentence is spent focussed on doing what they have to to get out.
Suddenly you have very different prisoners. Sure, some may spend some time in resolute rebellion, but they do so only to their own disadvantage. But now they can switch the light on at the end of their own tunnel. The focus of their time in prison changes from endurance to attainment and personal advancement. Failure or reticence is punished. Achievement is rewarded and perhaps for the first time in many of their lives, and the launch pad for a new start and a new life is laid.
Some may argue that all you are doing is shifting the responsibilities of education to prison, to which I simply respond “so be it”, after all it is the failure of our schools that sowed these seeds in the first place, it is only right that the education system should continue to play a part for as long as it takes (more on education ideas later).
I propose this because I entirely agree with those who advocate zero tolerance of law breaking and that burglars, thieves and vagabonds should go to prison and that prison should be harsh enough to represent a deterrent to all but the most hardened and insecure.
But I also get the whole reform thing. Not the community service bollocks and the namby –pamby anger management courses and the African safaris etc. But proper reform that alters attitudes and demonstrates the benefits of conforming. What is the point of incarceration if you release someone more capable and more inclined to continue a life of crime. Society takes one pace forward and two paces back.
I propose this idea because it ensures criminals are sent to prison, but it ensures that they are sent to a new and different sort of prison – one which is a damn sight more likely to release a person with pride and integrity rather than a vagrant with envy and spite written all over their face.
Tuesday, 11 October 2005
The Tories have failed to match up to Blair, and frankly have failed to even realise that that should have been their primary mission in life. This Government exists only through the domination of that one man.
He has now set the date for his departure and the Tories face two choices. They can lead or be led. They say that in battle, the moment that the initiative changes hands is almost tangible.
Are you feeling what I'm feeling?
Sadly Malcolm Rifkind, lovely chap that he maybe, prefers the status quo. He would be led rather than lead, as today he pulls out of the race and switches his allegience on the basis that "Ken Clarke has the popular appeal, he has the experience, he is an obvious person who can handle Gordon Brown."
Clark vs. Brown - Brown wins.
Even better record as Chancellor. Clark hung by his own tobacco stained petard. Performs marginally better than Howard, but resigns immediately because he can't be arsed.
Fox vs. Brown - Brown wins.
Fox successfully portrayed as extreme right wing and religious zealot. Fox forced back onto Tory heartland and loses seats.
Davis vs. Brown - Brown wins.
If presented with two unappealing men, we'd rather the boring one we know than the one on a mission without a cause. Party divisions caused by Davis's inability to either dominate or make friends, tears Tories apart under pressure.
Cameron vs. Brown - Cameron wins by a metropolitan mile.
Brown appears tired and driven only by personal ambition. Britain has no appetite to be led by a man who thinks it is his just reward. No new ideas, just more control and more tax. Finally people would see that he is the reason they are paying so much tax and getting so little in return.
So what would Labour do? Cameron vs. who? (Thompson suggests that weed Miliband). They would descend into almighty chaos choosing a new leader and probably end up with Brown, only now in a hideously bad mood. Best of all you end up with a divided party that loses whoever leads it.
You see political leaders provide an answer to the problem of the day. Churchill, Thatcher, Blair, MacMillan, Disraeli - they all epitomised the solution to the problems facing the nation. Depression, war, empire, economic failure, sordid sleaze.
So ask yourself - what is the problem to which we seek a solution? That's exactly it. In real terms, for the majority of people, there isn't one. All we want is someone who will hold together our rather lovely, well off, home owning, fun filled, celebrity led, car based, holiday filled lives. We want someone we can trust, who looks good and who isn't even remotely extreme. We haven't yet reached the tipping point beyond which Davis or Fox are the answers, and Ken Clark (and Rifkind) ceased being the answer to anything in 1997 and maybe well before that.
So this is it, boys and girls in Blue. One good decision now, and the polls will shift immediately and the long run in to the next GE will begin on the up. Fuck it up and we flat line until wealth is no longer sufficient protection from the ills of society and the Hamiltons / Archers / Aitkens are six feet under.
Monday, 10 October 2005
I have been very busy creating and establishing my new business.
- Countryside Communications is going well. The best bit is the feeling of liberation. Decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. Things move from ideas to actions in seconds rather than weeks. Spending of money suddenly becomes interesting and challenging. I'm learning to bargain!
- You can see what I get up to on my website www.countrysidecommunications.co.uk.
- I miss being in an office. I have always liked ranting and now I have no audience. I need an audience!
Ebay. It's just porn for women!
- "Marriage in ruins as wife admits to 5 million images of Ebay tat on her computer". "I couldn't help myself" she said, "I just had to keep looking. I started off just looking for curtains, but one thing lead to another and I before I knew it, I was searching for porcelain figurines and Jackie Collins first editions."
- Maude was rightly flattened in his appalling attempt to make the Party look ridiculous, and succeeded only in making himself look ridiculous. I never ever want to see him again. If Howard Flight can be expelled for saying perfectly reasonable things in private, it is hard to see what punishment befits him for saying what he said in public.
- Davis has obviously built up a terrific stock of thumb screws, looking at the list of MP's propping him up. I do sort of admire them all for trying to create such a swell of support that the leadership election was over before it began. Trouble is - they all got behind the wrong man.
- Cameron, my preferred candidate since June, has started to gain ground. He looks like a leader, sounds like a leader, acts like a leader. Oratory may be old fashioned but it is the essential skill of any politician or leader. Speech is the oldest and most basic means of human communication and is the means by which 95% of our perceptions are derived, consciously or unconsciously. It cannot be overlooked or under-estimated. Davis has all the communication skills and popular appeal of a hooded yoof. He will NOT win a general election. Cameron will. Throw off the screws and jump ship, y'all.
- I absolutely despise Ken Clark. Not just, as you might suppose, because he is pro-Europe and is fundamentally un-Conservative, but because he is arrogant and self serving to the most damning extremes. He contributes the square root of jack shit over the last decade or so, loafing around selling tobacco and making piles of cash out of third world misery and then has the nerve to suggest that we have "kept him waiting". He genuinely believes that time has just stood still and that his experience of failure in the Nineties is just what everyone needs now. You epitomise everything that is wrong with the Tories these past ten years, Ken. Please go away forever and take all your aged, loser supporters with you.
- I still think my way of choosing a leader is best. The list of candidates should go to the membership first. Members would then send the most popular two back for the final selection by MP's. However, only members under 45 years of age get to vote in the first round. This achieves two things: firstly the MP's don't spend an embarrassing few months manoevering sychophantically around the favourite; and the ordinary members with most to lose and gain from the nomination hold the aces. Now that's radical.
- Since the last time we spoke, England have been beaten by Northern Ireland and scraped a win against Austria. I will be glued to my seat on Wednesday. Beckham was just great. On being sent off, he decided to seek out his bete-noir and shake his hand. Now either this was an act of cynical petulance or he genuinely thought he would look good in apologising. Sorry, David, you just looked like a bloke who lost his temper and committed three fouls in one minute. Leading by example as always!
- I did promise myself a long time ago, that I would use this site to think through and write down some positive policy ideas for the primary aspects of Government. Annoyingly, had I kept my promise a bit earlier, I might now be in the proud position of pointing to previous posts and claiming "Here, that's where Cameron got his ideas from!!" Well at the very least I hope that on Dec 7th, I will have called it right since June.
Tuesday, 27 September 2005
I am an expert in political vacuums and I enjoyed the highest quality training. From General Mike Jackson no less, our Prime Minister's own tutor. He is the only man in the last decade or so who has truly understood the power of vacuums.
In Kosovo in 1999, I was a uniformed Army press officer and for the purposes of the day we crossed the border from Macedonia, I was in charge of the Sky News team and Reuters. By means of some clever manoevering by me, we were literally the third vehicle in the convoy of 2000 vehicles which would all drive up that one straight road to Pristina.
So what, Bailey? I hear you shout. Stick with it. Stick with it.
So Jackson's plan for entering Kosovo, which was revealed to the world but actually designed with only one audience in mind, was to give the Serbs a timeframe for withdrawal. After each 24hr period beyond a stated day they had to have withdrawn further and further North until all troops had left Kosovo. What the old devil omitted to mention was that he had no intention of waiting for the withdrawal programme to even start before flooding the place with Nato soldiers. So it was then that we moved slowly but surely into Kosovo that morning to be confronted by some pretty surprised and pissed off Serbs. "We haven't even started packing yet" they said. "We have another day" they insisted.
What Jackson realised was that if he left so much as the width of a piece of paper between them leaving and us arriving, the Albanian KLA would have moved so damn fast and cause so much chaos to our eventual role that our position would have been untenable from the start and highly embarrassing in the end. Jackson had been talking to the KLA, not the Serbs. He was trying to catch them off guard. It worked a treat. We got there first and were there to put the KLA straight into their box when they arrived. Heard a sqeak from Kosovo since?? No. Didn't think so.
What on earth then, you might ask, is going on in Iraq. The Allies determinedly bring 30 years of tyranny to an end and then completely ignore the propensity for Muslim sectarianism to bubble back to the surface and fill the vacuum. You know well that I am not against this war, but as was said repeatedly at the time, I do find it baffling that our political leaders wander in to a place with a history like that, without the first thought given to the real job of putting the place back together again. As a result we have a laughable number of troops trying to hold it all together. We are going to lose. Shias and Sunnis will slaughter each other whether we stay or go. That is unless we take control. And I mean really take control, in a way that would make even Nero blanche.
Where am I going with all this? - Just think Blair and Brown and I'll get there in a minute.
History, both ancient and modern, is filled with examples of phenomenal tyrannies suppressing ancient sectarian feuds, only for the tyrant to die or be deposed and everything kick off again as if nothing had happened. How about Tito in Yugoslavia for one? That feud between Serbs, Muslims and Croats erupted after his death with greater ferocity than ever, and that was after 50 years of Tito's absolute rule during which they all lived "happily" side by side. You'd think we'd learn.
Well maybe, just maybe, Mr Blair and Mr Brown have learnt. All the talk on the news tonight was of Mr Blair seeing off Mr Brown. "I'm staying put!", "Bugger off Brown!", "I'm still in charge!" (at least one of those will be a headline tomorrow). But it was only yesterday that the news was full of Mr Brown postitioning himself for leadership and finally discovering his friendly sense of humour to boot.
I do hate the ridiculous fickleness and ephemeral nature of news and its reporters. Stand back. Look at that again. What do you see? Well I see two men ruling out any possibility whatsoever of a VACUUM. I am guessing here, but I'll wager it's Brown calling the shots on this one.
Hello, Mr Howard. Wakey, wakey.....................
Thursday, 15 September 2005
What is so upsetting is that you know that wading through their eternal "press 1 for this and 2 for that" routine ends up with a monkey who is utterly incapable of fixing your problem.
Worst of all, they provide single lines through which you are delivered two services (telephone and broadband) but their engineers are only trained to fix one of them. So if you get the wrong one, they just walk off without so much as a bye-or-leave and you have to go back to the start.
They neither care, nor have to care about their customers and it is quite apparent that their customer service is orientated around the management of the business and not the satisfaction to the customer.
I would like to have nothing more to do with them. Does anyone know of an alternative?
In is unfair to suggest that Hayden, Langer and Gilchrist failed to turn up. They did - just without their usual party poppers. Gilchrist kept wicket superbly. Hayden caught cripsly in the slips and Langer's average was higher than Trescothick's. I apologise to you all.
It is also a little brusque to say that Bell's performance was entirely negligible. He did make more outfield catches than any other player on either side (this excludes wickies and exclusive slip fielders like Hayden). On the issue of his batting, however, I remain intransigent. It was bloody awful. If the youthful enthusiasm and belief in the dressing room was as contagious as we are being led to believe, then we should be bottling Bell's blood, since he clearly has the immunity of an alligator. Back to the counties for you, ol' boy. Oi! Collingwood.......
I think the rest of them pretty much got what they deserved.
2 final points - Lovely to see Flintoff paraded round London drunk as a Lord, lovely to see him behave so impeccably despite his condition and lovely to see such behaviour placed in its proper context and accepted for what it was. Also, how devastating is it to hear Dennis Lillee, the most frightening fast bowler in history, predict how fiercesome our bowlers are going to be on the hard bouncy pitches in Australia next time round. Cool or what?!
Monday, 12 September 2005
Cricket is a finer sport than any other. It is as complex as chess and as strenuous as triathlon. It requires physical and mental courage, patience, dexterity, control, natural skill and supreme endurance.
The pleasure is not just in beating Australia but in the manner that England have beaten Australia. This is a team with living legends like Warne and McGrath, players of the last decade like Hayden and Gilchrist and emerging players such as Brett Lee and Michael Clarke. No. The real thrill comes in having watched our players out perform them and the averages speak for themselves.
The real difference between the two teams was exactly that - England were the better team. A collection of exceptionally talented players more tightly bound than the other side. In so many areas of the game our players just pip the other side. So many players shone and someone always stood up and did the job no matter how perilous the situation. I make only two changes to this team for the immediate future. Only Ian Bell failed to deliver any resounding contribution in any game and I felt all along that Collingwood or Thorpe should have been there in his place. With Thorpe retired, Collingwood or Robert Key must step in. And Geraint Jones, who struggled behind the stumps, must be replaced with a specialist wicketkeeper. We need a keeper who can bat, rather than a batsman who can keep.
Of the Aussies, so many players failed to turn up. Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Gillespie, Kasprowicz, Katich and Martyn. Warne, McGrath, Clarke and Lee were the only men on the pitch half the time. (Brett Lee is the real deal. He was their best player besides Warne and he is the next great name in Aussie fast bowling).
Warne and Flintoff were the biggest contributors and to be fair it is hard to separate them. Warne took 40 wickets (thats 40% of the possible total and in the event he took very nearly half of all Aussie wickets!!!) and scored 249 runs. Flintoff took 24 wickets and scored 402 runs. Flintoff wins, but Warne is a living legend and we will never see spin bowling like that again.
But I have determinedly not mentioned two men so far. The defining difference between the two teams was leadership and the biggest cheer of all is reserved for Michael Vaughan. He designed this victory, he lead this victory and he played his part in it too. He inspired, controlled, contained, encouraged, calmed and calculated. He also scored the highest single innings score of all (166 at Old Trafford). He was awesome. Ponting on the other hand was panicked, scared, lost and clueless. He had no plan and could not even respond when the world realised what Vaughan and Fletcher had done.
Vaughan enabled England's bowlers to suffocate the Aussie batting with plans and imaginative fields and they bowled like a relay team (of doctors performing "the snip"!). It was constant and un-relenting. The most destructive batsman in the world, Gilchrist never made it beyond 49 and in the first four test matches only one Aussie scored a century!
So once again, just as in rugby, leadership, discipline, respect and team work have carried the national team to the top of the world (albeit a small world in cricket!). Sport is more than skill and fitness. Sport is desire, confidence, character, sportsmanship and most of all self-sacrifice for the team. Whilst cricket right now is awesome, Football in this country is, and has been for sometime, awful and it will have to understand that before it will ever rise to the top.
The back pages will now be given back to the world of self obsessed, violent and obscene soccer players but for now the beautiful game is Strauss diving for a catch or cutting through point, Flintoff pulling for six or moving a ball back off the seam, Vaughan driving through the covers or plotting a wicket, Trescothick clipping through square leg, Pietersen hooking for six, Harmison bowling a yorker, Jones reversing the swing, Hoggard swinging and beating the bat, Giles just holding everything together and England lifting the Ashes.
Well done and thank you.
Sunday, 11 September 2005
Tuesday, 6 September 2005
It must be said however, despite the apparent insensitivity, that my sympathy is tempered ever so slightly by a number of things.
A minor point would be my constant amazement that people knowingly build and live in communities located in such geographically un-sound situations. There are many examples around the world, of human's defiance of nature's superior force and every so often she proves who's in charge.
The most important point however is the incompetence and downright negligence of a state and local government not to have the powers, resources and plans in place to deal with a known threat and regular rehersals of their plans.
There is no question that good, rehersed plans save lives. Ask the many survivors of the French airliner that came down and blew up a month or so ago. Ask the hundreds of survivors or the London bombings on July 7th. Those in charge knew that one day the threat would arrive and had plans to cope.
Even according to its highest officials, New Orleans has been waiting for this for years, yet their readiness was non existent. The Mayor can order people to leave, but sod you if you can't. I would go so far as to say that the negligence of public officials verges on the criminal. Contingency planning is a much maligned profession but behind the scenes they must quietly get on with the job and have plans in place.
If an order to evacuatte is given, it should have been followed up with clinical precision to ensure that everyone leaves and would be easily anticipated by the massive build up of national guard and other agencies ready to move in and execute the order.
The third world coped better with the tsunami, and they had only 30 seconds notice. Get a grip, America.
It is at this point that I leap to the defence of that prize, grinning Charlie, President Bush. What the hell was he supposed to have done about it? Is he really supposed to check personally the contingency plans of every State and County. Was he really supposed to command the response? Have we gone mad? No. He has been massively let down by Senators, Governors, Congressmen, Mayors and every other local representative and it is very disconcerting that we see these very people promising to "punch the President". If they had done their job properly in the first place........
I also wish to hear nothing more from that dreadful group of British tourists caught up in it. They ignored the warnings, they were pathetically ill-prepared and most of them have displayed a staggering lack of dignity in the way they have escaped - and then weep crocodile tears for those they left behind. Sorry, not acceptable.
What is most alarming and depressing is the speed of descent into civil unrest and disorder. Media reports of rape, robbery, murder, looting are a disgrace. A natural disaster occurs, and a community of people are at each others throats within days. Is this where we are at, the so-called developed world? In the moment when a community should pull together and help itself, the community has pulled apart and turned on itself.
Can you imagine that happening here in Britain?
In as much as this has become the parallel stories of rich and poor, I rather think there are sufficient similarities between our two countries to merit closer scrutiny.
The very fact that I, a pro-American blogger, am contemplating this demonstrates just how much more fuel has been poured on anti-American sentiment. How they will crow. Until now, criticism of America has taken place against defensible backdrops. There has always been another side to the story. But in New Orleans we see America in its true colours. No Richard Rescorla here.
It is worth bearing in mind that a certain audience will have watched this situation very carefully indeed and will have been quite amazed and intrigued at how simple it has been to bring a major US city to its knees. Radical Muslims have shown a propensity for developing unique and viscious tactics against the West, deliberately targetted at our fears and foibles. This advertisment of the Western / American psyche will not have gone un-noticed.
Saturday, 3 September 2005
Well there are a number of reasons - a summer holiday for one (including a gorgeous week in France, near Bordeaux, courtescy of our wonderful friends, Phil and Vanessa). Addictive and nerve shattering cricket for two (I told you cricket rocked!). Doing the old DIY and odd jobs round the house for three (also preparing a room for our delightful new au pair, Klaudia from Hungary).
But most of all, and most thrillingly, my time has been occupied by the preparation for the creation of my new business, which is formally brought into being on Monday morning.
No more commuting, no more London, no more outrageous parking and train fares or rip-off sandwiches at Pret.
Please welcome Countryside Communications - a specialist public relations consultancy communicating to, for, about and from the countryside.
The BBC in its entirety
In fact pretty much anyone called Michael
If the media come calling, remember to Just Say No!
What does Ken Clarke think he is doing and who is he trying to kid? We had a name, in the Army, for officers who used to try over and over to get into the SAS, only to come back with increasingly ridiculous excuses for being rebuffed. What was it now? Oh yes, that's right - wankers!
This window of opportunity cannot be wasted. Whilst we have Clarke, Widdecombe, Yeo, Bercow, Hestletine et al in one boat, we must sink it once and for all. Individually they have the voter appeal of a cowpat. Together, they are the slurry pit that the party has swum in since the 1990's.
I also came up with another solution to the leadership election. I think that in a first round all the names on the list should be whittled down to a short list of three by the membership of the party and then a leader selected from those three by the MPs.
Only there's a catch - the first round vote should only be by those members of the party who are 45 years of age or under.
It is we young'uns who have most to lose by living our best years under a government we despise and a opposition party led by an unelectable dinosaur we don't want but are lumbered with by a senior element who still think they are important.
If we were the Party whose youth (relatively speaking of course!) elected its leader, we would almost certainly attract more people and would repeatedly refresh itself within the context of the modern society in which it exists. How radical is that? You can't even spell radical, Mr Blair.
Thursday, 4 August 2005
Tony is our wicket keeper at Buckden Cricket Club, for whom I play as often as I can. Tony is also bat maker to Mr Andrew Flintoff, who today has just scored 68 runs towards England's 407, a record opening day test score against Australia. You see Tony spent Sunday morning with Mr Flintoff crafting a batch of new bats and I can tell you that if you were a test cricketer with the weight of the nation's hopes on your shoulders, you could ask for no-one better to make your bats and give you some encouragement than Tony.
I am prepared to wager that, whilst peering over his spectacles as a lump of willow transformed into a mighty sword, Tony will have said something insightful and yet discreet and that Andrew will have pondered it as he continued on his way towards the battle of Edgbaston. I am thrilled to say that Tony spent the day at the Test and was privileged to see the results of his magnificent job. Thank you, Tony. And thank you too, Andrew!
So England end another first day of a Test match well on top and with records tumbling. Two weeks ago I count my blessings that I was so busy as to have been unable to post my thoughts at the end of the first day of the Lords test. I would have built the most enormous sandcastles out of cricketing superlatives, only to have them washed away in wave after wave of Australian counter attack over subsequent days.
England's mistake at Lords was to whack a giant on the nose and fail to be ready for the backlash. This time they have whacked it again and I can only hope they are prepared and ready to follow it through and deliver more fatal blows.
I said back in May, I think, (Cricket Rocks!) that England were a side ready to contest Australia's longstanding invincibility. For the first time in a long time, England has real talent in all quarters of the game. I am particularly annoyed that Collingwood has lost out to Bell at number four. Collingwood is clearly a batsman on fire who could give stability to that part of the order. Just as importantly, however, he is inspirational in the field, where England are at their weakest and most likely to fall asleep.
Having proved where the Australian weaknesses lie on two occasions now, the England team will prove one way or the other over the next few days, just how much they desire to win and how determined they are to tear down the Australian fortress.
If we square things up with a win here, I feel that England's confidence will be unlocked. If Australia battle back, England will be crushed for another 2 years.
I can't tell you how nervous and excited I am!
P.S. My own season is going well too, thanks for asking. I have scored 20 and 30 in my last two games. Tony is my bat maker too, after all!!
Thursday, 28 July 2005
There has of course been plenty to write about, and fans of this Blog will be understandably disappointed that I have not been there to amuse and inform with my traditional fare of forthright bullishness.
I rather felt however, that things would move at a quite a pace and that constant commentary would only result in huge quantities of egg all over one's face as the facts and situations lurched one way then another. I would have become like the thing I most despise - 24hr News. I can't tell you how depressing it is to be close to a news story and to have to endure the constant drivel pumped out by Sky and BBC 24 as they desparately try to fill time with opinion, vaguary and so-called expert analysis. The devil makes work for idle hands.
I also knew however, that I did not possess the words or the clarity to describe how I feel about the developing scenario. I felt that I had to wait a while and let what happens happen. I can't do anything about it, so no point ranting. Everyone has an internal political anomometer and in moments like this I conclude that it is wise to keep quiet until it comes to rest.
We are fast approaching that moment when I can comment. Not on what has been particularly, but on its context and the future. The most important ideas and thoughts are finally surfacing but even now I wonder how I am going to word the thoughts I have.
If you are a young protestant unionist living in the six counties, I would sell up now and move at least to the mainland, if not further. The game is up, you can’t win now. Ireland will itself be unified by 2015.
[This article is quite long, but I try to keep it engaging and controversial, so please don’t give up too easily.]
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when it dawned on people how to resolve this issue, but I had myself certainly developed a theory sometime in 1994/95. Indeed, after a moment’s madness in the Officers’ Mess in Londonderry, punishment for which was a night on camp duty (proper camp duty that is, sangar sentry / camp patrolling etc like what the Jocks had to do) for all the Officer miscreants, I can plainly recall telling my good friend and now Jasper’s godfather, Major Phil White, exactly how I thought it would all play out.
The key to it came in observing the very stark change of direction and policy once John Major took over from Maggie in 1990. For the best part of a decade, Maggie and the IRA had been to engaged in the most bloody and violent battle. They tried to blow her up, so she had them shot on the streets in cold blood (or so some might allege!). Do read “Big Boys’ Rules” if you get the chance. Maggie’s contribution, other than to provide the SAS and the rest of the Army with the most outstanding training ground, was to fight the IRA into a retreat and force them to look for other ways out. It wasn’t deliberate. It just happened that way. I remain confident that Maggie would have slaughtered every last one of them had she had the chance.
I first served in Northern Ireland in 1992 with the then 3rd Bn The Royal Irish Regiment, in South Armagh and the Newry / Newcastle area. The Royal Irish had only recently been formed from the old UDR and things were changing, despite fierce resistance. At around the same time, I met Lara, who has a very interesting Uncle. By the time I returned to South Armagh in 1994 (three days after our wedding!), the first cease-fire had been called since the only other one in 1973/4. I discovered that Lara's uncle had negotiated both.
When I asked myself why such a person had been called upon to conduct such negotiations, an understandable strategy fell into place:
The IRA had proved themselves a match for anyone. They tied up the best part of half the British Army for two decades!! (Please don’t let anyone tell you our current bombers are sophisticated – they are not, but the IRA were. The IRA’s principal and largely successful aim was to get away and as such their sophistication and ingenuity was admirable). I think it occurred to some people, people who were shut out during Maggie’s reign, that the only real way to resolve the problem – and this is the interesting bit – was to convince Adams and McGuiness that they could achieve the same ends through different means. And those means were Political.
You see the motivation of the IRA leadership had shifted subtly. Religion was less and less important. The real motivation now lay in money and power (perhaps it always did). The terrorism business was proving a highly effective way of controlling vast swathes of people and money. John Major listened and concluded similarly, that the way to peace was through shifting the process away from the knee-cappings and murders and into the ballot box.
If he could give these men a political power to replace their criminal power, they would have to play the political game, and killing and blood don’t play well at election time when you are seeking a popular mandate. They would have to attract votes and have policies and address issues with ideas. MI5 knew also, that Adams and McGuiness were intelligent men and more than a little attracted to the prospect of power and the various trappings that come with it. Suddenly, to retain the power and money they are used to, they have to stop bombing and shooting people.
Fundamental to this process however, had to be the understanding that in time, democracy would create a route to achieving the desired republic. Sinn Fein would one day have a majority and with that majority they can take the beautiful counties of Antrim, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh and Down away from the Crown (and yes, I did deliberately miss out Co. Londonderry!!)
So began the long and bumpy and slightly bloody journey towards the Good Friday Agreement and beyond until we arrive at today. Tony will of course take the credit. He is PM and so it is his right and privilege, but don’t be deceived – it does not belong to him. He has been a passenger in a vehicle built by Maggie and set rolling by John Major.
I played my part, too! I was in charge of the operation to dismantle the first border crossing observation tower at Clady in Co. Tyrone. I say in charge rather than in control, because kids in the village ran rings round us and nicked anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down. It wasn’t amusing at the time, but I am smiling now!
Sinn Fein and the British Govt know that, in time, the Catholics will have a political majority in Northern Ireland and will be able to bring about their desires. They have both accepted the principal that if the majority want it so, then Northern Ireland can join the Republic, but it must be done through the power of elections not bombs.
So after three elections, the share of the vote has steadily increased for Sinn Fein to 25%. The UUP have been demolished. Only Antrim and Down hold out under Unionist control. The political ground is set for Sinn Fein to look quite peaceful in comparison with the currently dominant, Paisley led DUP.
It is going to happen. Within two more general elections, Sinn Fein will have a majority. Birth rates among the Catholic communities are set in place to achieve it.
If the Northern Irish Assembly is restored as a result of today’s action, the DUP will have no choice but to play a part. If they don’t, they will lose. Trouble is it’s check-mate – they lose if they do, too.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, cheer or boo, applaud or rant. Good game, good game.
Monday, 11 July 2005
The following headline is currently running across the BBC Online News home page:
"Traffic to the BBC news site reached record numbers following the London attacks."
However true this may be, the only possible purpose for this story is to promote BBC News and BBC Online through this appalling tragedy.
Blowing your own trumpet in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack is about as low as it gets. Just because some irrelevant and publicity seeking web monitoring body makes such a pronouncement does not justify gazing at yourself in the mirror and giving it oxygen while rescuers are still recovering the bodies.
The millions of people who no doubt did indeed turn to the BBC in time of need, did so because the BBC has a global reputation for integrity, accuracy and reliablility. The point being of course, that people know where to go for information WITHOUT publicity.
Sadly, such a cheap, tawdry and thoughtless marketing ploy such as this just shows how little they deserve their reputation and how quickly they intend to dismantle it.
Thursday, 7 July 2005
London has finally been hit. Everyone knows that it was only a matter of time and scale. As someone who has seen terrorism first hand in Northern Ireland, I can say now that, despite the awful casualties, London has been relatively lucky.
This attack has all the hallmarks of an attack designed to make a small statement at short notice rather than cause maximum damage through long term "big bang" planning. Our Olympic victory in Singapore yesterday sealed our fate as the target but we have our security services to thank for the limited scale of the attack.
It is so often the case that when security is working, long term planning is prevented and small, quick, snap attacks are the only option available.
The individual bombs have been small enough to move around and uncharacteristically targeted without precise relation to others. It is co-ordianted only in as much as it has been apparently random and targeted at busy commuter facilities. This is still an Al Quaeda attack, but it has been limited in success by security measures and specific circumstance. It could have been Paris or Madrid. It was designed to be able to react in a very short time scale.
So, in a limited scale (by their standards at least) the terrorists have demonstrated that they remain alert and capable. They have struck with good timing and done enough damage to achieve the the most desired of goals - public fear. If it turns out that these have been suicide attacks, then we face our worst nightmare - that their are people living amongst now today, who are prepared to die and to kill for their cause. They wear no uniform, they form no army, they simply emerge from the shadows and detonate their device.
Two subjects will, at some point soon, bubble to the surface.
Sadly the issue of ID cards will gain momentum. This would be a travesty since they remain the most terrible assault on our liberty and would do NOTHING to prevent this sort of attack.
More seriously, the issue of our continued involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan will re-ignite. It will be no more than a week before someone says that we brought it upon ourselves, that the war was wrong and that we should withdraw and give up.
They will never have been more wrong. The war against religious extremists started on 9/11 and whilst it may be inflamed by our activities in Iraq, it does not go away if we withdraw. This problem must be faced and fought with resolute fortitude and a momentous determination. This is not a contest we asked for but it is one that we must deal with. Cowardice now will cause only more suffering later.
They are innocent victims today. Their numbers and names are as yet unkmnown but their loss is heart-breaking to their friends and relatives and grievous to the nation. As a nation, however, we must remain committed to enduring the worst in order to secure the freedom and liberty not just for ourselves but also for those living under religious tyrannies.
Tuesday, 5 July 2005
I sense that this limit keeps politics and politicians fresh, motivated and constantly thoughtful. It also keeps the public a little more interested. Surprisingly it doesn't lead to short term-ism because at the eight year point, ex presidents are just as keen to hand over to their party successor as they would be to win themselves. They have to think ahead to achieve this.
Most importantly it avoids the most revolting of British political traits - the bad smell of politicians who have out-stayed their welcome and gone off.
Cue Geoff Hoon - the man most representative of everything that is so repulsive about New Labour: Unintelligent, vain, incompetent, evasive, shallow and deceitful - and today's news that he wants voting to made compulsory, fines for failing to vote and (wait for it) more respect for politicians.
The man who almost single-handedly conspired to put the most senior ranks of Government and the security forces in the dock, wants more respect for politicians and to fine people for not voting.
Deep breathe, count to ten........
A great injustice is about to take place and I have no means but these to vent our anger and frustration.
Having given six years of her life to bringing up our children, Lara has, at the wonderful age of 32 (33 tomorrow!) had the determination and motivation to return to University and study to become a valued public servant - a midwife. She wishes to spend the whole of her working life helping mothers and babies through those first anxious and frightening moments of delivery and birth. There are few more wonderful things that one woman can do for another.
Her course is full time and an ever changing balance of classroom coursework and hospital based practical work. Quite rightly, the course is as arduous as the job will be. The hours are long, the pressure immense and the required knowledge levels are huge. Midwives now must combine the traditional values of empathy, care and strength with a considerable intelligence. And, as has become obvious from a recent experience, she must run the gauntlet of the blame and liability culture in the event that mistakes are made (as if the death or incapacity of a mother or baby are not sufficient crosses to bear).
When she is on the ward, she is to all intense and purpose an active member of that shift. She works as hard and long as everyone else and is as much involved in all the goings on as anyone. Her commitment is indisputable. They calculated that they probably do about 1500 hours a year, and essentially this is free labour since the students do not get paid. I am in greater admiration of my wife than I can say.
So here is that injustice.
Her course is a 3 year Midwifery degree. It is a direct entry course (i.e. one does not require to have been a nurse previously) and it is the first such course to be run by Homerton College, Cambridge. The first two years come with an automatic bursary of £500 per month. Yes, that's right, just £500. It covers such things as the childcare that a mature student with children, such as Lara, might need to cover her while she is doing the hours of a traditional 'early' or 'late' or 'night' shift. It isn't much but it helps bear the additional costs of adjusting to a new life. In our case it helps to pay for Anita.
So would you believe it if I told you that we discovered at the start of the second year that the meagre bursary funding is to be stopped in the final year of the degree course.
You have it right. Despite the fact that Lara works for free in hospital in the capacity of a proper midwife, and despite the fact that her chosen career is that of public servant, and despite the fact that she works utterly anti-social hours and despite the fact that Mr Tony Blair intends for 50% of young people to get degrees, Lara must forgo what little support is available and endure additional hardship in order to complete her degree. What is even more ridiculous is that this rule only applies to a handful of students. Most of them are nurses converting to midwives and as such are being paid for by the Trust for whom they previously worked. So the funding shortfall is both comparatively small and relatively insignificant.
We have tried every which way. We have written to the local NHS Trust asking them to help with funding in return for a set period of service on qualification. We have asked the College to find some way. All to no avail. They remain set in their appallingly organised course. We are both furious and upset because £6000 for the final year is nothing for a Trust to ensure the services of a midwife during a national shortage. To us, however, £6000 is a big part of our budget, especially when you don't even have Sky TV to give up to afford it.
When I was training as a soldier and subsequently at Sandhurst to be an Officer, we were signed up and paid properly. Sure it was not the full amount, but it was more than enough to make us think twice before throwing in the towel. Most public servant student training is funded to ensure that the individuals are encouraged to stay. The forces, the police, the fire service. Can you imagine the stupidity of creating one that actually places obstacles in the way and discourages completion?
If she chooses, Lara can switch to the Diploma and retain the money, but I can't tell you how sad that would make her. She wants a degree. Not just because she is intelligent and deserving of one but because that is today's education baseline and what is expected in hospitals today. Lara will be sad, but I will be angry. Angry at the complete lack of thought that has gone into the organisation of this course, angry at the dishonesty of the advice originally given, and angry at my inability to pay for my wife to attain her selfless and deeply caring ambition to be a midwife.
AND ALL THIS WHEN I AM PAYING MORE TAX THAN AT ANY TIME IN MY WORKING LIFE AND WHEN MORE OF OUR MONEY IS BEING SPENT IN THE NHS AND EDUCATION SYSTEM THAN EVER BEFORE.
EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EH? REALLY??