Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't join the xenophobes, Nick

It is hard to believe that recent statements by Cameron, Clegg and Miliband on immigration were spontaneously synchronous.   Perhaps they were just responding to each other.  More likely they were all responding to UKIP's performance in Eastleigh.  Nick Clegg's statement came first.  Wrong and foolish, Nick.    We don't want the xenophobe vote and, even if we did, we wouldn't get it. Farage would.   Far better to talk sense about immigration and its benefits, like President Obama and like Francesca Montemaggi in her blog Blunt and Disorderly.  Simon Titley also analyses Nick Clegg's attempts to change Liberal Democrat policy unilaterally on the Liberator blog.

Don't do it, Nick.  We won't let you. We're still Liberals.   As we used to say in the Young European Federalists, Xenophobes, Go Home !

Friday, March 22, 2013

Where were Blair's tears ?

I never thought I would have something good to say about Margaret Thatcher but archives released by Churchill College reveal that she understood what her decisions meant for soldiers and sailors, even weeping over the loss of HMS Sheffield.    I doubt that papers released in future will show such concern by Tony Blair over the lives he destroyed in Iraq through his lies and cavalier attitude to war and invasion.

Fine words butter no parsnips

As usual great rhetoric from Obama in Israel:
Palestinians have "a right to be a free people in their own land".
"The only way for Israel to to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realisation of an independent and viable Palestine".

I am not cynical about his rhetoric or the value of saying such things in the heart of Israel but US support for Israel despite the continued illegal settlement building and despite their treatment of innocent Palestinians, all of which Obama condemned, this support gives Israel permission to carry on.   

Palestinians are cynical about Obama as they see US aid to Israel increase.and no change in their situation.

Time to butter some parsnips, Mr President.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Belgium - "a land that might almost have been dreamed"

I spent a total of seven years of my life living in Belgium but I never met the man obsessed with penguins.  Tabloids like to use "Brussels" as shorthand for the EU, as if there was some bureaucratic cellar in the Grand Place dreaming up madder and madder regulations to impose on Britain.   Douglas Adams' take on Belgium was surprisingly unpopular when I played it to a Belgian friend.   Jonathan Meades' take does more justice to the country and its delightful oddness.  See volume 2 of 3 at  6m29s for the national sport of finch watching and 9m30s for the museum of underpants, but if you have time watch all three volumes. Penguin man is in volume 3.  It will lighten and illuminate your day.

"Can you name 12 famous Belgians ?" people ask.  No problem:
Jacques Brel
Adolphe Saxe (inventor of the Saxophone)
Plastic Bertrand
Georges Simenon
Herman van Rompuy
Eddy Merckx
Herge (inventor of Tintin - you're not allowed Tintin)
Rene Magritte
Leo Baekeland (inventor of Bakelite)
Audrey Hepburn
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Maurice Maeterlinck

I've excluded people born before Belgium became a nation (1830) such as Peter Paul Rubens and Simon Stevin (inventor of double entry bookkeeping).   If you want more, there is an excellent website on the theme called "Famous Belgians".   John Cleese doesn't seem to like them.

(That's enough Belgium - Ed)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sorry I'm slow moderating comments

Just seen several comments awaiting moderation.   I returned from Brighton hoarse, not the singing but a rapidly developing cold, but this is no excuse.  I'm sorry I didn't check sooner.

Monday, March 11, 2013

An excess of deference. Never give up !

At the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, Jo Shaw, a human rights campaigner and former parliamentary candidate, resigned from the party in the most public fashion when speaking from the rostrum against the Justice and Security Bill.  Conference overwhelmingly supported her view but she was wrong to resign.   A party is the sum of all its members not the errors of its leaders.  I hope she will be back.

To my surprise, Jo did not support my campaign against accreditation, which I promise is not over. Of course the question of secret justice in the courts is a far more important matter but how we run our own party and how much members care about it angers me more.   Although I share Jo's view of secret courts, I can understand the argument on the other side and do not consider that those for whom it is persuasive are therefore not Liberals.   Strangely, I am more upset by the manipulation of our own processes by those we elect to run our party's committees.  If I wanted unfair procedures or manipulation, I would have joined the Labour Party.

Last year it was the Federal Finance and Administration Committee (FFAC) which overruled the clear view of conference by imposing accreditation again. This conference saw another blatant example. The Federal Conference Committee took it upon itself to overrule a ballot of members on the choice of emergency motions.  They rejected the representatives' choice to debate the economy and substituted their lower preference to discuss Leveson.  Whatever the respective merits of the motions, they behaved undemocratically and beyond their powers.   Standing Order 4.5 empowers the committee: "Following the counting of any ballots the Committee shall decide how many motions shall be debated in the time available.".  It does NOT empower them to choose WHICH motions shall be debated nor to overrule the ballot.  When I shouted "outrageous" as the decision was announced, a lady objected that the committee had informed us before the ballot that they would do this.   Giving notice that you intend to behave undemocratically and to exceed your powers is no excuse !  Andrew Wiseman, chairman of the committee, told me that they had done it before.  I regard that as asking for previous offences to be taken into account.

When Martin Tod challenged the decision by seeking to suspend Standing Orders, we failed to get the required 2/3 majority.   This saddens me immensely.   It represents a change in the culture of our politics.  I have no doubt that the old Liberal Assembly would have stood up for itself and respect for its rules and suspended the standing orders to put the committee in its place as its servant.   We are suffering from an excess of deference to authority.  Jo, come back and help us challenge it.

Why we waited

Returning from Brighton yesterday, we were held up in long queues south of the Dartford crossing, where we found the bridge was closed.  I have now learned the cause of our delay.  A man wanted to commit suicide by jumping from the bridge and the police and negotiators closed the bridge and spent four hours trying to dissuade him.  This sad story is only relieved by the thought tat the authorities tried so hard to save this man.   I do not begrudge our long wait in a queue of cars if it gave him the chance of living, which sadly he did not take.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Voter fatigue

Back from Eastleigh with a bad ankle (too many doors) and a bad stomach (too much fast food), but happy.   On polling day, we found many residents had attached hand-written notes to their front doors, loosely translated as "Go away !".  O'Farrell posted one on twitter than was more explicit in conveying what Clement Freud used to render as "Go forth and multiply".  In case they can't be read the two above say "NO leaflets or callers: religious or political" and "No voting rubbish please".   Given the huge effort by Liberal Democrats and other parties, it would not be fair to say that these people don't value their vote.  They had simply had enough paper and enough canvassers.  Those who have the vote will never value it as much as those who don't.  In the 1980s I was knocking up with a vigorous old lady, a former suffragette, when a first-time 18-year-old girl voter said she probably wouldn't vote as she had to wash her hair.   My companion exploded at her. "I marched to get you the vote" and much more.  The girl agreed to go and vote.