Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Everything is relative - including poverty.

Live 8 has deserved mention in its own right ever since dear Bob came up with the idea but somehow without a more comprehendible context, I just couldn’t bring myself to write about it.

Well thanks to Panorama, I now have that context and can tell you pretty much exactly how I feel in relation to a real problem. I can also talk about my wife and her midwifery, which is a relief since I daresay most of you thought I had made that up just to make myself appear a little more human. As if!

Mortality in childbirth (mothers and babies) in the World’s poorest nations was the subject of this programme. Lara and I watched with interest (and a little commentary!) and dutifully followed the emotional rollercoaster that the presenter intended – starting off with despair, moving towards hope, only to fall back into utter despondency. Basically, the programme revealed that in Chad, as just one example, mothers and babies are dying during and shortly after childbirth for want of such basic drugs and medical facilities as you and I would find in any half decent chemist and the poor midwives and gynecologists can only watch. Heart rending stuff, without a doubt.

What’s that got to do with Bob, I hear a couple of you ask. Well that’s where it gets interesting. You see they go on to tell us that in Honduras, a little bit of good political lobbying, clever funding and organisation and appropriate training has led to a massive reduction mortality rates despite being a very poor country. The inference is of course that Africa is a special case and that Sir Bob and his merry band of publicity seeking flunkies will ride to the rescue, force billions in aid out of the richest nations and Africa will be healed. Sadly I am not convinced.

You see I have left out the crucial bit. What follows is part politics and part sociology but it is interesting. Late on in the programme, Chad’s lady health minister dared to be interviewed at the featured hospital. Now instead of simply confronting her with the problem, and urging her to come to the rescue with some cash from their newly found oil reserves, the tactless presenter took it upon himself to berate her, lecture her, insult her, and accuse her of corruption and laziness. Now women are women the world over and I am sure you can predict what her reaction was. But in her response came some truly revealing statements:

Firstly she rightly said that there was no machine into which you could put the culture of Chad and transform it into a Western one. Her point is beautifully made. We will never solve the problems of Africa, whilst we determine their problems with modern, developed, western attitudes and presumptions. Africa must be encouraged and urged to develop but at a pace they can handle and assimilate the new world requirements.

Second, she rather curtly said – “Are you finished? Thank you for your ideas. Very kind of you!” – which in any language means “you can be thankful we have developed this far or you would be waist deep in vegetable stock and new potatoes by now”. Apart from the fact that the BBC has now single-handedly set progress on this issue back a decade, her response was typical of any young political establishment. a) She’s probably got a dozen other health priorities to deal with, b) quite enough healthy babies are being born to keep the population buoyant and compound those other health priorities I just mentioned, and c) whether its true or not, if all we ever do is accuse these people of political corruption and incompetence, they might as well get on and live up to it.

So dear Bob can force as much money out of Bliar and Sploosh as he likes, but the astonishingly patronising and tactless approach we take towards Africa simply means the money would be poured into the pockets of soon-to-be, if-not-already corrupt politicians. Your effort is commendable, Bob, and I do admire your energy and drive, but it is to no avail.

We must understand and accept that Africa is not Europe, Asia or America and that it cannot become so overnight. Their traditions and cultures, however distasteful to us, exist for perfectly valid sociological and anthropological reasons (I regret that they have since been perverted by that most awful of confidence tricks – religion) and I know that it is painful to watch.

For Africa to be helped, it has want to be helped. So what can we do? I think that we can do three things:

We can make the trade system work better and more fairly, so that they can see for themselves the benefits of hard work, enterprise and innovation and so that economic growth has as real and stable foundation to grow on;

We can focus our efforts and aid and support on education, through which we can start to break through some of the cultural barriers to reform and give the people more understanding of their own environment and the wider world;

We can encourage and support our kindest charitable souls to load up containers with materials and expertise and go to Africa and work with small communities to make their life a little better.

How many thousands of other Lara’s watching that programme said at the end “I’d go and help if I got the chance.”

Bob, pssst. Stop pissing about with your sanctimonious, smug, do-gooding pop stars and start looking for Laras.

Friday, 24 June 2005

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away

For people like me, Thursday night’s are a misery in front of the TV. BBC Question Time is compulsory masochism. I have to watch it but I know I will despair at most of it.
It show cases the very worst of invertebrate politics. I know from experience that the Parties prepare their participant with great care prior to departure for the host City, and even then we get the traditional “tell ‘em whatever they want to hear” rubbish.

Tonight’s super-miserable moment came with the inevitable question on the repayment of tax credits. The debate went something like this:

"Ooh, isn’t it awful. Those poor people have been given the money and now they have to pay it back and they can’t afford it. It’s so unfair, but it is our money and we can’t just write it off. Those forms are terribly difficult to fill in and maybe people forgot to inform the tax people that their situation had changed. Are you calling them cheats, Minister? Of course not, I am sure they just forgot. We must do something to restore confidence in what is fundamentally a good thing. I speak to lots of people who have been liberated by tax credits……………….”

STOP, right there.

Tax credits are a fundamentally bad thing and it is simply impossible for anyone to be liberated by something that ties you inextricably to the benevolence of the state and income support.

Tax credits are without question the most devious and insidious dependence mechanism ever created and done so deliberately by this most anti-liberty chancellor.

Nobody can possibly be "set free" by having to fill out a 60 page form to claim a “credit” which they then become dependent upon and must fill in another 60 page form whenever the most minute detail of their life changes. Liberty is to be free from interference or control of the state and other individuals. Tax credits are shackles and it astonishes me how anyone who did not absolutely have to, could so willingly and so thoughtlessly put them on. I for one will never claim a tax credit no matter how many I become eligible for.

What pissed me off most on the programme was the fatuous response by Francis Maude. So bent on wanting to appear “caring” and “emotional”, he was completely incapable of setting out the naturally conservative position on solving this problem:

Yes, the poorest recipients of this money and now victims of this Whitehall cock-up should be freed from the burden of repayment, but tax credits can NEVER work and will always be liable to this sort of bureaucratic catastrophe.

The real solution is to give people this money through not taxing it in the first place. By raising the tax threshold, by reducing the basic rate of tax and by taking a ruthless scythe to a bloated and useless government bureaucracy. We can’t pay tax quickly enough to feed this army of unproductive tax collectors, inspectors, blanket stackers and bean counters.

An overhaul of the benefits system to encourage people into gainful and productive employment and then leaving more of their wages in their pockets - now that’s liberating and that is fundamentally good.

Night, night!

Monday, 20 June 2005

Cricket Rocks!

I know it is late but today's victory by England over Australia in a One Day International cannot pass without mention. Nor for that matter can my hitting the winning runs in our village cricket match on Saturday (A sweet straight drive back past the bowler for four. No backswing, just timed it and leant on it.)

A little inkling of what is to come this summer was on show today in Bristol. We have waited long enough, but a completely new generation of young, hungry, talented England cricketers are ready to strip Australia of their dignity this summer. The team is properly led for the first time in nearly two decades (Vaughan), the bowling is strong and fast and accurate (Harmison / Gough), the fielding is awesome and inspirational (Collingwood / Strauss), and the batting is belligerent and fearless (Flintoff / Pieterson).

Cricket matches of all descriptions are won and lost in the field and finally one feels that England have remembered this. At the end of the day, there is only one way to guarantee winning a test match - and that is to bowl the opposition out twice. Our bowling attack is now strong enough to tolerate one person having an off-day.

But fielding is where you really see how a team is feeling. A team on the up has fielders who are right there all the time, who will run down every ball, stop anything as a matter of pride and make catches and stops that actually inspire each other to even greater heights. Every player on that pitch today will have been lifted a foot watching Collingwood pluck that ball out of the sky. They are responding to each other. They are a team and it shows.

Cricket is not boring. It requires patience, stamina, courage, skill, and intelligence. Cricket is exciting. Cricket rocks!

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Power to the People

As the news of this blog drifts slowly around those I know and those I don’t, I take the view that for anyone to actually read it, it must be written in a lively and engaging fashion. Equally, of course, such a style will attract a good deal of contradictory thought.

To that end, I took an early decision that comments must be freely accepted from anyone who wishes to make one. So indeed, comments are welcome and criticism is expected and accepted.

Derisory belittlement of my efforts to think and express my thoughts, however, is not welcome. “Catholic white noise” it may be but the discipline of thinking and communicating one’s thoughts clearly and concisely is indisputably commendable and not to be sneered at.

What is far more “symptomatic of modern life” is the constant scorn poured on any attempt to advance the intellectual, cultural or political agenda of this country. The determination in some quarters to stamp out political debate is little more than a childish and insecure fear of their attempts at policy being exposed for the shallow, knee-jerk reactions that they are.

Such dismissive and contemptuous treatment may work to silence the know-it-all in the classroom, but it doesn’t work here. This blog is my small attempt to “grapple with modern life” and answer “the questions that the vast majority of people have” (chavs excluded, as they are precisely the group depreciating society’s value and holding us back).

My Grandmother always taught me that “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing!”

p.s. Any belief that the Conservatives are doomed and that only “taking a leaf from President Tony” will revive them is an utter contradiction since any examination of Mr Blair’s tenure reveals him to be as Conservative as any before him. Mr Blair has achieved an astonishing feat – in a single stroke, he has demolished socialism in Britain and pushed the Conservatives out of the picture and into a marshmallow-brained and delirious muddle. Sadly the result has not been the ideal meritocracy he promoted but a simple re-ordering of the same old power base that rules Britain and furthers it aims through money, power and privilege. In so doing, has brought civil society to its knees. Never has this country been led with such little integrity and doesn’t it just show.

Friday, 17 June 2005

Is anybody out there?

I think so. You may suppose that no-one is paying the blindest bit of attention to anything I say, but a certain national daily newspaper appears to be logging in and paying close attention.

The Daily Telegraph no less. Yes indeed. Today in her comment piece, Alice Thomson can be found to have published a number of thoughts that you read here first.

Consider these remarkable coincidences:

In my post "Conservatism transcends race, creed and sexuality" yesterday, I said:

"Theresa May is the straw that broke this camels back. Today she reveals herself as another "potential candidate" for the Tory leadership. And her big idea - that the Conservatives should be nicer to women and should discriminate in their favour. Tim Yeo's big thought is to pursue the "centre-ground" and Alan Duncan thinks that by having a gay leader, the party will show it has changed. That's it. That is their big idea."

Alice Thomson wrote today:

"Andrew Lansley hampered his chances by saying that the Tory party should change its name to the Reform Tories. Theresa May's main claim to the title is that the party is too "macho". Alan Duncan is not macho, but he has put everyone off by comparing the party to a pair of frilly M&S knickers."

Not a million miles apart, I think you'll agree!

In my other post of yesterday "A leader, a leader. My kingdom for a leader", I wrote:

"The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision and it's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.

Alice wrote today:

"Ideally the winner would combine both their skills of will to win and calm management. But they need one other attribute. They need to provide a vision of the future."

Quality blogging or what. I rest my case. Read her excellent piece in full - "Suddenly Tory MPs want to win again."

Watch it, Alice. I'm onto you!!

I love my blog!

I really do. I am addicted. I could sit here all night just thinking out loud. My wife thinks I am "surfing the net" (and we all know what she means), but I am not. I am blogging. Look, see what time it is!!

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Botton is tops

As I read recently of Lady Warnock's admission that her integration policy for people with special needs had failed, I was genuinely touched by sadness that a) such an issue could have been the subject of a social experiment and that b) we had let these people down so badly and for so long.

I have searched my soul on many occasions to decide how best to deal with the mentally handicapped. Integration, I concluded was actually more about making the rest of us feel better about ourselves than it ever was about doing the best for these people. Segregation of course seemed souless and inhumane, but ultimately I believed that it was best for them as it provided the safest environment for them to engage with life without confronting the reality of its unremitting harshness.

I have seen comparatively little of the mentally handicapped in my life and so I am very aware that I am in no position to judge but then tonight I watched the Channel 4 programme about the Yorkshire village of Botton and was enthralled and delighted.

For those of you who missed it, Botton is a sanctuary; a place where people with serious mental needs can live as real a life as possible, with each other, safe from harm and interference. As a father of small children, I could see how childish these adults were, but with supervision from genuinely kind people, they interacted with passion, liveliness, humour and attentiveness.

Botton is full and there is a waiting list to get in. Why? Just create new Bottons.

A leader, a leader. My kingdom for a leader.

Now that Conservative MP'S have given Mr Howard the swiftest of blows to the goolies, will someone please get on and lead the troops out onto the pitch and get this sad and thoroughly un-interesting durge over with before I chew my own arm off.

While I am about it, may I remind everyone that the job vacancy is for a LEADER of the Opposition. For the avoidance of doubt, a leader is someone who "induces action by a group through their own persuasion and example; someone who directs actions and opinions".

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision and it's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish. " - Proverbs 29:18
"Leadership has a harder job to do than just choose sides. It must bring sides together. " - Jesse Jackson
"The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. " - Henry Kissinger.

Heaven knows I could go on forever with inspiring thoughts about leadership, but all I really want is for someone of good Conservative stock to demonstrate it.

Please, aspiring candidates, before you leap into the fray, stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and ask yourself if you are a leader or an ego.

Mr Howard, thank you kindly for holding the fort, but it is time to go. I am desperately sad that you have undone such great work during your time in charge, by your ludicrous post election judgement. You are now, however, humiliating yourself, your party and your supporters and it is not appreciated.

Bring it on!

Conservatism transcends race, creed and sexuality.

Theresa May is the straw that broke this camels back. Today she reveals herself as another "potential candidate" for the Tory leadership. And her big idea - that the Conservatives should be nicer to women and should discriminate in their favour.

I've had enough. Tim Yeo's big thought is to pursue the "centre-ground" and Alan Duncan thinks that by having a gay leader, the party will show it has changed. That's it. That is their big idea.

Once and for all, can we understand that a conservative philosophy transcends sexuality, race and creed. The basis of Conservatism applies as equally to a lesbian, black muslim as it does to a white, english, male christian. Please God (whichever God!) can we understand that it is the winning of the philosophical and policy arguement that will restore us to power. Just having a gay leader or a woman leader doesn't make the slightest difference. In case you had forgotten, New Labour is lead (if you can call it that) by a public school educated, white, British male.

What matters is that we find a leader, one who can espouse the finest policies on taxes, health, education, transport, crime control, freedom and environment all bound together with a seamless thread of quality conservatism.

If you have nothing helpful to say, Alan, Theresa, Tim and all the rest of you "girlie men", then say nothing. You are not political leaders if you waste an interview or a speech to talk about spin and image before first setting out your comprehension of what it is to be CONSERVATIVE.

Substance before spin.

David, please put us out of our terminable misery and LEAD out onto the pitch. I just can't bear it anymore.

Biased (and arrogant) BBC

Wandering around in the blogosphere, I came across a blog to which I simply had to link IMMEDIATELY.

It is called Biased BBC and it simply provides example after example of the BBC's entrenched anti Conservative bias.

I am not afraid to despise the BBC for its undignified and improprietous descent into blatant political partiality. I have seen it at first hand and will bring you the finest examples myself, as I find them. Whilst everyone who owns a television is required to pay a tax for the privilege and in doing so fund the BBC, it will bloody well do us all the courtesy of providing our news and programming without fear or favour. If, however, it wishes to become the televised Guardian / Independent / Mirror, then it can find some other way of raising its cash. I really don't mind, either way.

In the meantime let me recount an example from last night of real inappropriate BBC activity.

The programme "Funny Money" recounts the story of a Police / BBC investigation into a counterfeiting operation in Manchester. So far so reasonable. However, soon into the programme, it starts to become obvious that the real purpose of this arrogant programme was to get one up on the Police.

You see while the BBC were free to employ (with license fee money) bone fide criminals to infiltrate and entrap the counterfeiting gang, the Police were working painstakingly within the law to build up their case for prosecution. The BBC streaked ahead, as you would expect, and got all the characters on tape along with footage of the printing press in motion.

The icing on the cake was the reconstruction of the moment the BBC finally showed then Police what they had and then argued with them over whether they could broadcast it without damaging a future trial.

We are close to the end of the road when our national broadcaster conducts criminal investigations without the consent or even knowledge of our police service; employs criminals to do their undercover dirty work (as they admitted, one of them is now in prison for a supporting role in a murder); and puts ratings above our proper trial process. This programme was little more than a Police belittlement exercise and if I were them I would be absolutely furious.

p.s. It goes without saying that I firmly believe that our current criminal investigation rules and procedures are ridiculously tight and that as a result our police are hopelessly handicapped in their pursuit of crime. Get the evidence, capture the ciminals. It really isn't that hard.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Advertising's new frontier

Okay, I've only just discovered them but viral advertisements are my thing of the moment. A viral is basically an advert designed to be spread by email and computer, rather than being seen on TV. As a result they tend to be a little racier than usual and that just adds to their attraction. Enough already, a work colleague has launched a website which is essentially a repository for loads of them. Have a look for youself and be amused. Be very amused! http://www.thedepartureslounge.com/

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

They burn witches don't they?

I am increasingly disturbed and offended by both the antics of Mrs Cherie Blair (or Booth, depending on what day of the week it is) and the sycophantic media commentators who attempt to smear anyone who draws attention to her.

During the election campaign two things happened that really annoyed me. First, the Conservatives formally branded Tony Blair a liar and were then attacked for daring to do so. Second, Cherie Blair and her husband gave an interview to the Sun in which they made reference to their apparently hyperactive and improbable sex life.

Since then, things have gone from bad to worse, as Cherie waltzes round the world at tax payers expense, lecturing for money (personal gain only, not money for the Treasury) on nothing more than her life at Number Ten.

Separately they are: in Tony’s case, a shallow, vain and blatant liar and in her case, a tawdry, revolting, cheap, tasteless, supercilious, arrogant, nauseating, repellent, bigoted, prejudiced, money grubbing lawyer, high on power and acclaim.

Together, however, they are re-writing the laws of sleaze and creating a fashion for political celebrity (in this particular point, Lembit Opik (the say what ever they want to hear party) joins them having sold his wedding snaps to Hello magazine).

What concerns me is that anyone who dares speak out against such disreputable behaviour are themselves harangued into silence. When will we wake up?

In our silence we are quite literally condoning the prostitution of our highest political office for the personal gain of the most repulsive couple of individuals ever to occupy it. I could never in my life have imagined anyone or anything being allowed to cheapen the political premiership of this country. It actually makes me feel sick, not only that they do it but that decent people stand by silently and let it happen.

I recall being in Central Office the day that John Prescott punched a member of the public during the 2001 election campaign. The hierarchy decided to say and do nothing as they believed that it would do its own damage. It didn’t and I was incensed. I thought they were wrong then and I still think so now.

Here we are four years on and still unable to touch them. The Tories must learn and learn quickly, that their primary and indeed only mission in life must be to remove the Blairs from office. If they are allowed walk out of their own accord when they choose to, they will have won and the Conservatives will remain in opposition for another 8 years.

Tony Blair is a liar and we were right to brand him as such. Cherie is humiliating us all on a global scale and bringing the country into disrepute, and we are right to say so.

I will keep you updated on the depths they will surely continue to plumb.

Monday, 13 June 2005

Welcome to the Blogosphere

Vicki Frost has joined the Blogosphere and it is lovely that she joins us. I have a link to her site "Where are you?" on my list. Vicki is just great. She is hard working, politically sound, a devoted (single) mother, successful, funny, a wonderful friend and lives life to the full. She is also a girl and as such her blog is very different. Perhaps it is just because I am a bloke, but there is a great deal of femininity and emotion in the early posts and I suspect these will continue to underpin all her observations. I look forward to reading more and I hope you do too. Welcome Vicki and keep blogging.

Saturday, 11 June 2005

Books, is it??

Apparently, I have been "tagged" and I have to write about books what I like.

I was tagged by Tom who knows very well that I don't read books. When was the last time you saw me with one, eh?? I am a competitive chap sure enough and am not one to run away from a challenge but silly questions about books are really beyond the pale! Still if is humiliation that you want, Tom, here goes, but don't expect anything profound or cultured:

Number of books you own:

Haven't a clue. Probably 500. Predominantly reference. These are my favourite as they all look impressive but you only open them when you need some information. That's my idea of reading.

Last book I bought:

Sorry. That's a blank. I did buy my previous boss, Peter Farr, a book as a leaving present. It was a military compendium or something. Can't recall the name. I wanted to give him something to remember me by! Maybe he will leave a comment and tell you all. I really wanted to get him the Daily Telegraph's book of military obituaries, which is just the most fantastic collection of heroics, valour and humour on sale, but it was sold out the day I went.
Lara is very good at buying me books. I have a fifteen by my bed but I just don't seem to have time to read them (even less now I have a blog to care for). She bought me the latest Flashman and Steel Bonnets for this last birthday, both by George MacDonald Fraser.

On the subject of military obituaries - a brief story if I may (just to pad this post out a bit!). I grew up in a small Scottish village and was dragged to church most Sundays to sit beside a group of predominantly old and deaf people (that's how it seemed to a child at least!) called Brigadier this and Colonel that. Anyway, ten years or so later, I was leafing through Grandma's copy of the Times and saw a picture of a familiar man. It was the deaf brigadier I had so pointedly ignored as a child. I started reading and couldn't stop. He had won two Military Crosses in combat and had escaped from prisoner of war camps three times, on each occasion returning straight to the battle front. On one escape he had dressed as a frenchman and acquired a bicycle only for the chain to fall off just as a German tank regiment passed him on the side of the road and he still got away. How cool is that?? I almost fell off my chair. The moral of the story is - Never, ever ignore old, deaf people called Brigadier. They were young once and probably brilliant.

Last book I read:

Give me a moment............oh yes, I think it was Boris Johnson's book about political campaigning. I wanted some inspiration and amusement. But I have been dipping in and out of Andrew Rawnsley's Servants of the People, which is fun. I also read the Spectator cover to cover each week. I don't want fiction. I want opinion and politics.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

Well if you are still reading, then this bit won't let you down. My low-brow countdown is:

1. Charlotte's Web. Can't remember who wrote this, but I recall this as the very first book I read and loved at prep school. It just captured me.

2. A Perfect Spy, John Le Carre. I was travelling in Indonesia in 1990 and stayed a few days with a friend of my father's in Semarang, Java. It was just there on the shelf and I picked it up and only put it down to sleep. Two days later I finished it and was very annoyed that it was not longer. Again, it simply absorbed me and carried me off. I can happily say that I always wanted (and still do!) to be a spy.

3. Serve to Lead. This is the first book you have to read at Sandhurst. It explains and demonstrates the true meaning of Service and is profound.

4. Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser. I can hardly summon the words to do justice to these books. Captivating, brilliant, exhausting, hysterical, informative. To tell history through the eyes of a fictional character you have nicked from another book and conspire to place at the forefront of all the great events of the past is just inspired. Boy's own stuff. Sex, soldiers, adventure, escape and ruin and salvation. He is a cad and a bounder and always lands butter side up.

Most importantly though, I read the first one in Macedonia in the weeks prior to crossing the border into Kosovo in 1999. They were nervy weeks and really the first time I had faced true military uncertainty (much more than South Armagh or Londonderry). But I can genuinely say that Flashman's expeditions and escapades inspired me and gave me a strange confidence that I would come through. I used to listen to Fat Boy Slim (Right here, right now) while I read. The first story is set in Kabul and the music just fits like a glove. I am playing it now and it all comes flooding back.

Two years later, I actually queued up in Edinburgh to have the latest Flashman (and the Tiger) signed by the author. I told him we were brother officers and where I first read his books. The inscription reads, "to a fellow Gordon Highlander. Ninety-twa', nae deid yet!"

5. The Rise of Political Lying, by Peter Oborne.

Bit of a fib this one actually. This is the book my good friend Tom researched and it is the book I would most like to read. Tom, who as I said at the beginning "tagged" me into this humiliation, promised to give me a copy for my birthday. I was so looking forward to it but it would be rude to raise it or remind him. I just couldn't. What on earth would I say? I just really want to read it.

Revenge is sweet!

Strange Requests Welcome Here

Things you don’t hear very often – “What do you think of Camilla. I am really fascinated by what people think of Camilla Parker Bowles.”

Now I have many things I want to write about on my blog, but when our wonderful friend Vicki made this strange request, well, who am I to refuse. I am fairly sure Vicki and I see pretty much eye to eye on most things, but you know I have no idea what her views of the monarchy are. So Vicki, just for you, here goes (and no getting upset if its not what you wanted to hear.)

To start this subject, I must share with you my particular passion for the monarchy. I believe in it as an institution. It is not perfect and the individuals may cause eyebrows to rise now and again. But as an institution, its constancy, impartiality, integrity, dignity and sense of duty above personal advancement transcends politics and acts to protect the nation from the possibility of political excess. I firmly believe that the British constitution, unwritten and flexible as it is, has established a breath-taking balance of power between the pillars of state (monarchy, parliament, the judiciary and the military), each one subject to and superior to at least one other.

I state this clearly because at the heart of each of these pillars are fallible humans, yet their fallibility matters not. The brilliance of the system is that it is the institutions themselves which are in control and the people inside them merely set the direction and speed. Parliament and the Judiciary roll constantly from left to right without damaging the supremacy of Parliament (yes, even Blair’s dismissive approach will be reversed) just as the monarchy can roll from madness to majesty without alarm.

It is truly important that I explain this to you first, as it wholly informs my views on the individuals concerned.

So what of Camilla. In its simplest form, her relationship with Charles is as classic a love story as any. Clearly besotted from an early age, they have finally been allowed to consummate their love, and despite the fact that they may not be the most beautiful of people, it is most certainly a beautiful thing. The problem is that public perception places at their door the charge of causing a constitutional crisis, and at her door in particular, the heinous charge of robbing us of the People’s Princess.

But is that really fair? The rules of love do not sit quietly on the Palace steps, and doesn’t every girl’s fantasy see true love win through in the end? It has been messy but they got there. In as much as they are in love and she is now a calm and stable influence on our future King, their marriage is a good thing. In as much as the journey towards it cost them their personal integrity through adultery, that is sad. So it is therefore, that if you seek the real source of this particular problem, you must turn to our Queen.

I can safely say that Elizabeth II, in my opinion, has been a magnificent Queen to the Nation, and the Commonwealth, but equally she has been a hopeless mother to her children. Despite this, however, there is no cause for alarm. History will record a shrewd Queen who wrote a script according to her devotion to her country, a devotion naturally born in that most potent of environments – war. She put the nation first and expected her family to follow. When they didn’t, she took matters into her own hands.

Did she knowingly and willingly subjugate her son’s happiness, through his arranged marriage to Diana, for the future strength of the monarchy? Did she intentionally sacrifice Diana’s happiness and sanity for the sake of the monarchy? We will never know. The irony of it all is, however, that when the public criticise Charles and Camilla, they criticise the Queen, but when they praise William, they praise the Queen.

We are, I sense, largely uninspired by the thought of the reign of Charles III because we cannot relate to him. But we are already looking forward to the reign of William III, because he looks and feels like a strong monarch. Both situations are the result of the intuition of one woman. Fallibility or shrewdness, take your pick.

So my conclusion is this – Camilla, and for that matter any of the lesser Royals and their spouses, is of little or no consequence in the grand scheme of things. If Wallis Simpson and Kathryn of Aragon couldn’t bring down the monarchy, Camilla stands no chance. She, Charles, and our Queen may all be fallible, but it matters not. Kings come and Queens go but the institution of the monarchy rolls on absorbing yet another chapter of history and creating new generations of people, stories and dress selections for our grandchildren to contemplate, criticise and marvel at.

I hope that makes sense, Vicki.

God Save Our Queen.

Thursday, 9 June 2005

I'm lovin it!

There is no excuse for it. I am ashamed. I feel dirty. But at the end of the day, Lara and I like and watch and discuss Big Brother. I've used the McDonalds catchphrase as a title partly to attract the attention of my children, who take great delight in winding me up by singing it endlessly, but partly because I think that essentially BB is the TV equivalent of McDonalds.

BB6 or whatever number we are up to now, is certainly starting off more viscously than any I've watched before. They are being refreshingly open with each other and nomination time is no longer the dry, boring, namby pamby affair of old. I am, however, constantly amazed at how unsophisticated they are (and especially the girls) at manipulation. With the exception of Saskia and to a lesser degree Makoze, they are as subtle as a brick. Of the boys, Craig has played the gay, girlie card far too early and is simply coming over as a loser, but the rest are settling down. Looking forward to seeing more of Science, who has determinedly and carefully avoided the limelight without appearing boring or attracting negative attention. Maxwell is without doubt the star of the show and very much our favourite.

But what of us on the outside. Now begins the summer of fun for all the voting public and it is now that we are revealed for the ruthless, nasty, bastards that we are. It is like the Roman amphitheatre. We can literally play with these people, like a cat plays with mice. We do not vote on likes or dislikes. We vote on entertainment value. We will keep people who are stirring things up because we want to be entertained. We will split friends up because we like inflicting misery. And we will toy with them mercilessly - because we can. £70,000 is no prize for this sort of abuse.

Always keen to find a political angle on anything I write, it is worth noting the fashion for citing BB, and all the others, as attracting "voters" more effectively than politics and politicians and that we should revive voting interest in elections by modelling the system on these shows. I say God forbid, but if you have any doubts just watch closely over the next 12 weeks and just see if I am wrong. Anyway, by the looks of the current Government, we may be well on the way!!

Come on Maxwell. "Ur winding me up, right?" Right!!

Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Don't worry, just nail it back on its perch!

It's late so this will have to be short and sweet.

I refer of course to the European Constitution and my title should have Monty Python's parrot sketch whirring through your brain as you read. That's right the constitution is not quite dead and even if it is they'll just nail it back up and hope no-one notices. They will behave like my youngest, Jasper (6), when he claims that he "wasn't ready" or "wasn't looking" or what ever it takes to wipe the score and start again.

You see the current clutch of European leaders are simply too committed to their European project to back away now. We have seen it before - countries (like Ireland) vote against some part of it and they are sent back to try again. They are clearly determined to press ahead with their desire for a federal European state before they are swept from power and no ill tempered referendums are going to stop them. Ironically of course it is precisely this blind rush to the federal goal that will speed up their demise, but like all those who cling to power, they are incapable of rational thought. Europe is now considerably more volatile for these referendum results, not less.

Which leads me neatly to a related issue - the Conservative leadership. You see many have claimed that if France and The Netherlands voted against the constitution, that would bury the Europe issue and a certain Mr Ken Clarke would then be clear to stand for the leadership and his position on Europe wouldn't matter. Well this has been flawed from the start and as matters are proving, they were just wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again. Europe is well and truly back on the agenda and more dangerous than ever.

The Tories would sink without trace with Clarke as leader even in the most benign of circumstances, but now......well, how do you beat sinking without trace!

p.s. Please, please, please don't stand, Mr Rifkind / Yeo. You are part of the bad old days, not the bright future.

Better Late Than Never

Shortly after the recent election, Mr Blair, our Prime Minister (for those of you who may be in any doubt) had the afrontery to stand outside Number Ten and basically admit that he was clueless and that his premiership had been a failure and that he had thought of another great idea that he could ruin.

Anyway, it was at that moment, in my fury, that this Blog was really born. You see I got straight on the phone to Big Tommy G (Oliver's godfather, former Conservative colleague and owner an excellent blog that I will link to as soon as he teaches me how) and fumed. He invited me to write a guest entry for his blog and what follows is my entry, and my first published "article".

I think it only right and proper that, since the blog which this entry spawned is now up and running, my entry take pride of place here in the bosom of my family blogspot and my very grateful thanks to Tom for letting me store my views in his space while I worked up the courage to publish them myself!

We're off and running!!

Education, Education, Yobbery!

I endured yesterday’s news item on yobs [TB announced that his third term would prioritise dealing with yobs] with an ever-increasing sense of anger. Anger at the poverty and simplicity of the policy and campaign itself and anger at the failure of all commentators and opposition parties to get the point.

This second stream of anger is the most common in my world - politicians and the media so often miss the point that one starts to think they are doing it deliberately. In the case of the BBC I believe that to be wholly true, but that would be the subject of another essay entirely.

My anger grew so strong that I fired off a late letter to the Telegraph, only to discover this morning that I had entered the email address wrongly! So when speaking to the fabulous Big Tommy G this morning, I unburdened myself of this anger and he invited me to submit a short article for his Blog. Well actually he said 700 words, but I don’t do 700 words. Some of us have jobs you know!!

My aspiring letter read thus:

In 1997 Tony Blair won office predominantly on the promise of "Education, Education, Education.” Eight years later he commences his "historic" third term with a promise to solve the problem of yobs and youth intimidation. Even my maths is good enough to know that the subjects of his first term's priority are now the subjects of his third term's priority. He has failed these young people once and I suggest that most people believe he will fail them again. Could there possibly be a more stark demonstration of failure?

An entire generation has now matured under this Government and it does Tony Blair the honour of reflecting his leadership. Veiled, deceitful, arrogant, rude, disrespectful, directionless, obsessed with money and image and with a desire to record everything they do on camera ("happy slapping" I think the yobs call it, or is that just what Prescott does??). Mr Blair, I suggest you should quit before anyone else notices.

I could now spend endless words explaining what I mean, but frankly it is obvious. This government is now going to spend its third term clearing up the mess of its failed first term. I am an ex Army officer. I have seen leadership of all shapes and sizes, but one thing stands out above all else. Eventually the behaviour of the led reflects the qualities of the leader. So next time you cross the street to avoid an unpleasant looking crowd of youths or find your freedom in any way narrowed by the existence of yobbish or intimidating behaviour, remember where they get it from and ask yourself why their behaviour reflects Mr Blair's leadership.

The lies, the shallowness of his policy stunts, the year upon year of headline catching ideas that never lasted more than a day, the deliberate undermining of respect for institutions like the police, the vandalism of constitutional structures, the evasion, the spin.

Tony Blair preyed upon the Labour Party's desperation for power to enable him to achieve an unassailable position but his shallow pursuit of power simply for the sake of it has made him without question the worst leader I have ever known and large elements of this country now reflects him in everything it does.

My grateful thanks to the Big Man for allowing me some space on his blog.

P.S. I have narrowed my selection of leader to one of David Cameron, David Davis or William Hague (as I still believe he may be persuaded to return).

All About the Sea

Oliver, our eldest, is 8 yrs old and makes his first post. He wrote this poem at school and it has been selected for publication in a book this summer. We are proud parents and you will enjoy Oliver's writing very much over time. He tells great stories.

All About The Sea.

The sea can swish,
The sea can prance,
The sea can blow,
The sea can dance.

The sea can glide,
The sea can tear,
The sea can roar,
Like an angry bear.

The sea can be calm,
The sea can be rocky,
The sea can be nice,
Like a bear playing hockey.

The sea can flow,
The sea can tow,
The sea can blow,
Like an angry buffalo.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

"It'll only take a couple of minutes......."

So much space. So much to say. So little time!

My good friend and accomplished blogger Tommy G, assured me that setting up a blog would only take a couple of minutes, and so it has. The trouble is I must have thought of a dozen things to write about on the train into work alone and now I just want to sit here all day and write them.

Well I can't, so you'll just have to be patient!