Friday, September 24, 2010

Trident and the Marquess of Salisbury

On Wednesday morning, the Liberal Democrat Conference unanimously passed a motion calling for Trident to be included in the Strategic Security and Defence Review. For a few days the debate can be found on BBC I-Player. The Financial Times decided that Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, looked like an anarchist and I looked like the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. Actually the Marquess looks more like Kropotkin than any of us. The Grauniad called me David Grave.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Try, try, Trident again !

The Liberal Democrat Conference Committee has allowed very little time for emergency motions proposed by members. There are two slots, one of which they have given to a motion on floods in Pakistan which nobody will oppose and will not really require debate. Six perfectly good motions are left to compete for the remaining slot. The ballot between these motions is also so arranged to limit participation. Ballot forms will be handed out on Sunday morning to be returned by 1.00 pm on Sunday. Why such a short period when the chosen debate won't be until Wednesday morning ?

If you agree that now is the time to push on Trident, vote for this motion:

Emergency Motion No.6

Conference notes that:

In July the Chancellor announced that the Ministry of Defence will have to fund the £20-£30bn capital costs of a ‘like for like’ replacement for Trident. The Defence Secretary has warned that this means severe restrictions in the way Britain operates militarily, regiments could be axed or the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy amalgamated. The exclusion of Trident from the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is now untenable. It should be included and receive the scrutiny which strategic, political and financial circumstances demand.

Conference calls on the Liberal Democrat ministers to:

Press for the extension of the SDSR to allow a full review of the alternatives to ‘like-for-like’ replacement of Trident;

Ensure the SDSR considers cost-saving options such as ending continuous at-sea patrols and extending the life of Vanguard submarines;

Ensure the SDSR makes explicit the opportunity cost of Trident replacement – in terms of cuts to troop numbers and equipment programmes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trident replacement to be postponed ?

The BBC reports that the government is considering putting off the key decision on replacing Trident (known as "main gate")until after the next election. As so often, this decision not to decide is driven by saving money not by any principled discussion of the role and usefulness or lack of usefulness of Trident. That discussion would only happen if the government stopped ringfencing Trident and put it into the Strategic Security and Defence Review. At least a postponement will provide more time to press for that discussion to take place. The writer and former naval officer interviewed on the Today programme revealed that all three armed services don't want Trident and feel it has been imposed upon them by politicians.

Things you don't hear every day

"Pandas always find their way into politics" were the words with which the Today programme woke me this morning.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bankers or borrowers ???

As, I think, Terry-Thomas (or possibly Snoopy) might have said, "It matters not who wins or loses, but how you place the blame".
So who do we blame for the financial mess - the bankers or the borrowers ?

Peter Black quotes an interview with former Cabinet Secretary, Andew Turnbull, which firmly blames the Labour Government's borrowing.

On the other hand, Keynesian Liberal quotes an unpublished letter to the Guardian, which equally firmly blames the bankers.

It remains a political truth that the government of the day will always get the blame, even if the causes were before they came to power.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"One can survive everything, nowadays, except death."

In Paris recently I visited Pere Lachaise cemetery. It is a vast necropolis with Oscar Wilde buried furthest from the entrance. This has not stopped a continuous flow of visitors since he was moved there in 1909 from his original resting place outside Paris. As you can see many of them pay their tributes in writing with marker pens or on post-it notes. Thus defacing the tomb does seem a strange way to honour someone you admire.

Wikipaedia tells me the tomb was commissioned by Robert Ross and designed by Sir Jacob Epstein, adding "The modernist angel depicted as a relief on the tomb was originally complete with male genitalia which have since been vandalised; their current whereabouts are unknown." Taken by a fan or a critic ? Who knows ? After my trek to Oscar, my feet hurt and I decided to leave Sartre, Jim Morrison et al to rest in peace.

David Rogers and the Rome restaurant

Is David Rogers secretly running a restaurant in Trastavere ? Here's my snatched shot of the restaurant owner. You decide. Incidentally the food was excellent.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Burning books: Thank God, I'm an atheist.

Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, plans to burn the Quran on Saturday (9/11 in the backward American usage). Many have quoted Heinrich Heine, who in 1821 was referring to the burning of the Qur'an during the Spanish Inquisition: "Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings." The Nazis proved him right, burning his books in Berlin's Opernplatz a century later before they moved on to burn people.

I searched for a biblical injunction against burning books but found this:
"Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men ... So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." Acts 19:19-20. This was quoted by this bunch of Baptist nutters, who proclaim proudly:
"The burning of books is nothing new to True Christians®. We invented the practice over two-thousand years ago as a way to promote our faith in the Lord Jesus. In the early days of Christianity, when new believers in Christ were converted, they were naturally moved by the Holy Spirit to grab as many books as they could and pitch them into a fire. Unlike the sissy "Jesus is Love" fake-Christians (whom both the Lord Jesus and we loathe) we have running around today, the early followers of Christ were never ashamed to burn books. In fact, if you ever find yourself being grateful for the destruction of most of the works of pagan nincompoops like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, you have a Christian to thank! ".

At first I though this was some kind of spoof, a parody, but no, it's real. They go on to announce: "As most Christians already know, the Harry Potter book series is the most evil and dangerous set of books to be released this century.".

They are perhaps marginally less nutty than Marc Grizzard of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina who maintains that the first King James translation of the Bible is the only true declaration of God’s word, and that all others are “satanic”. On Halloween, he's going to burn the following “perversions of scripture" : The New Revised Version Bible, the American Standard Version Bible, and even the New King James Version.

Let's not forget Sarah Palin's old church, the Assembly of God, which has burnt Harry Potter books, music by Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam and that ungodly tale, Pinocchio.

Sometimes I thank God I'm an atheist.

Season of mists

Sue McGuire has published Keats' Ode to Autumn. Strange that Keats did not mention the smell of woodsmoke and burning leaves in Autumn's bonfires. I looked up how he came to write it. He was in Winchester. Surely they had woodsmoke ?

I also think the year starts in Autumn when the academic year begins and woodsmoke used to hang around Cambridge. It was the right time to start eating crumpets, which should have a closed season in the spring and summer like game birds. I particularly remember toasting them on a gas fire while the girls who invited me to tea sang, "When all those endearing young charms...". I promise you this was 1971 not 1871.

Autumn also means Last Night of the Proms and Liberal Conference, sometimes at the same time, but not this year.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Two Beds

The Guardian: “So what is it like to end up in bed with the Tories?
Shirley Williams: "Not one bed, two beds."

The coalition is a great experiment in grown-up government for Britain but it must also be a launch pad for Liberalism, not a slippery slide into decline.

We must maintain our separate identity, develop, promote, deliver and proclaim Liberal Democrat policies or the media will scorn and the electorate desert us.

Develop: We remain a separate party and must not be afraid to propose ideas which Conservatives oppose or the coalition agreement ignores. Our conferences should be fresh and exciting, a hotbed of new ideas, not a coalition rally.

Promote: Coalition is about compromise but after negotiation NOT before. We must argue from our clear vision, not some fuzzy consensus, and we must be seen to argue. Liberal Democrat Ministers defending government policies which we have always opposed will appear dishonest and weak unless they can demonstrate tough negotiation and the necessary virtue of constructive difference.

Deliver: Liberal Democrats in the coalition government cannot implement all our policies but they must deliver some and be seen to do so. Liberal Democrats in coalition must have real value for the voters, not just ministerial bums on seats.

Proclaim: Our identity and our political future are on the table. The future of Liberalism in Britain is in play. We must shout our achievements from the rooftops just as Labour and the Tory press will bellow out our failures. We have to win local elections over the next few years and European elections in 2014 on the Liberal Democrat record and Liberal Democrat policies. We are not all in coalition. In five years’ time we have to fight a general election as Liberal Democrats and emerge stronger.