Monday, 26 September 2011


Following on from David Miliband's little brother promising to cap tuition fees if he becomes Prime Minister, a friend sent me an interesting reminder about old 'New' Labour and their previous promises on this thorny issue, lest we forget how trustworthy the PFI-loving, banker-worshipping warmongers were:

1997 election manifesto: 'we will not introduce tuition fees'. The new government introduced them within 6 months. 'Things can only get better...' Tories supported fees, the Lib Dems opposed them.

2001 election manifesto: 'we will not introduce top up fees and will introduce legislation to rule them out'. The re-elected Labour government waited a little while on this before introducing top up fees in 2004. Tories supported top up fees, the Lib Dems opposed them.

2011: David Milliband's little brother announces that a future Labour government ('New, Improved Labour' perhaps?) would cap fees at £6,000. This is widely reported as news in the country's media, to the astonishment of the 27 people in the country with longer memories than last year.

2025: having been through several leaders, including the disastrous 'Balls-up' years, a Labour government struggles into power having ditched its remaining principles, headed by a public school lawyer who drops his 't's and pretends to like football. The new leader says 'sorry, we meant to say we won't increase fees by any more than £6000 so now there will be a graduate tax paid for over your lifetime'.

And yes, I know we didn't cover ourselves in glory on this one but we still believe in a free education and with any luck we'll get the chance to address this in due course. That said, the jury must still be out on the notion that cleaners should pay for graduates.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


This is possibly the most amazing use of technology of the year: a virtually free way of providing light into the poorest housing using plastic bottles filled with water. Genius simply doesn't do it justice.

Sadly, I cannot add links at the moment for reasons unknown to me but here's a pastable link:

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Tory Philip Hammond has said the railways are a rich man's transport. That much we all know. Then Labour says it is the fault of the government. I sometimes wonder if its just me who's left sane and the world has gone mad...

Let's be clear: the Tories bear the ultimate blame for the fiasco that is the privatisation of trains and the resultant chaos which has ensued, but Labour politicians have got some nerve blaming this government.

What were they doing for 13 years? Where was the plan for bringing the trains back under some kind of central control, slashing subsidies to private companies? Where was the improvement in services which such a plan could have delivered? Where was the rationalisation of fares to make them affordable for non-Tory ministers?

Seriously, if Labour is blaming the government for the trains disaster they are clearly demonstrating that they have light years to travel before they can seek re-election.

Do not, for a moment, think that I support the government on this, by the way. Privatised trains are a joke and always will be and unless any government 'fesses up to that obvious truth they are all culpable. I hope you're reading this, Norman...


(The headline is meant to be 'wait a moment' but it barely works...)

Now here's an interesting story which might not receive the coverage it deserves [I have tried to insert a link but it appears to not want to play today so check out the Independent for more on this]. It seems that Turkey is promoting itself as the leader of the Arab world.

Turkey is of course the home of the former Ottoman Empire and has managed to reinvent itself as a moderate, democratic state - not without much difficulty but still with considerable success. The fact that Turkey is not in the EU has been a source of disappointment to many but it may turn out to have been a good decision all along if this country can develop its role in the region. Turkey is an obvious choice as regional leader and the country's potential new role puts the lie to the idiocies of people like the 'Middle East Peace Envoy' - may his apples rot on the tree - who insist that we must fear Islam and the millions of terrorists it is supposed to produce.

This possible new approach of leadership and active support is not to ignore Turkey's less than perfect human rights record or the continued but ever more muted rumblings from the military. Turkey is no paragon but the country is ideally suited for this role in terms of its location, its proximity to Europe, its history and its previously strong relationship with Israel.

Comes the hour, comes the country which has been through all this aggravation and could be just what is needed to guide Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria to stability, peace and democracy.

I am having one of my dreams again, the futile ones which rely on common sense rather than realpolitik. In my dream, the USA will butt out and leave Turkey to gently develop this role, recognising that it could transform the region and usher in a period of democratic change across a number of states the like of which we have never seen. In my dream European countries - most notably Germany but also Britain and France - fully support Turkey and accept the country's leadership role, offering financial support as required and rewarding Turkey with greater economic engagement in Europe, benefiting both sides. In my dream Israel will recognise that its position is untenable as long as it seeks to challenge and confront its neighbours and that the only long term future for the country is through active, positive engagement now, which includes an end to illegal colony building as well as an acceptance that Turkey has for years been a solid ally of Israel and it can now be the conduit for this rapprochement between Israel and other countries.

It is an amazing thought that we might look forward to a democratic, economically engaged Middle East region within a relatively short period of time - a region which has transformed itself, rather than being changed from without by clever politicians with little understanding of the complexities involved.

Some dream, huh?

Saturday, 10 September 2011


It is quite remarkable that a single utterance from the 'Middle East Peace Envoy' is enough to double my blood pressure. His latest pronouncements on the region are little short of laughable - or at least they would be if they weren't so dangerous.

Blair said today that it was 'deeply naive' to believe the response of the 'West' to the 9/11 attacks had radicalised muslim extremists. Is he lying, mad or just stupid?

If you pound a country - Iraq - into submission because of a tissue of lies about weapons of mass destruction, if you continue to resist a just settlement between Israel and Palestine - favouring one side over the other, if you support dictators across the region in the name of stability and if you continue a desperate war against all things Islamic on the back of the actions of a few hundred madmen who are as representative of Islam as loon Midwest American Christian fundamentalists are of Christianity, what is going to happen other than resistance - resistance from the madmen as well as resistance from muslims who are frankly fed up at the lies and repression and who just want to live their lives without being branded by people like Blair as extremists or a threat to the 'West'.

The revolution in Egypt had nothing to do with the bearded weirdos of al Qaeda, nor did the revolutions in Tunisia or Libya. The struggle against the regime in Syria is also completely free of religion. It is being led by people who just want freedom, not a theocracy. Why doesn't Blair acknowledge this and celebrate the coming of freedom to these countries? Why doesn't he accept his terrible role in the wars, fear, hate and increasing denial of our civil liberties which have scarred the last decade in Britain?

Blair is an embarrassment to this country and our government should seek his removal from his laughable position as 'peace' envoy. He makes me ashamed to be British.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


It's starting to get a whole lot more encouraging in London - or more precisely, Tottenham. Having endured around 14 months of Hell at the hands of the grubby media, this could be the moment Nick Clegg begins his rehabilitation as he steps into the limelight and confirms his role as the Minister for Doing the Right Thing.

His support for Vince and their joint call for banking reform to happen now, not when Dave and George's chums in the City want it, is what we fought the last election for and what the prophetic Vince has been demanding for an embarrassing (for the other parties) number of years. Nick's firm backing for Vince is what we want to hear and he needs to square up to Dave and make sure the Tory leader doesn't weasel out of this. Any compromise on this fundamental issue should be met by loud Lib Dem condemnation. Banking reform is solid gold, not blue...

His return to Tottenham yesterday to reaffirm the government's commitment to helping the area after the looting is also good, a clear sign that the Lib Dems don't just move on to the next story. Nick's visit appears to have been welcomed by people in Tottenham and even by the local Labour MP.

Nick has done more for his reputation in this one day than in the past 14 months of coalition government. I called yesterday's brief comment 'reasons to be cheerful' and for one of the few times since we went into coalition with the Tories, I am smiling. As I've said before, I don't envy our Lib Dem MPs their job of working with the Tories but I do admire them for it.

Lots of people - usually on the left- have bleated about the Lib Dems in coalition, some asking what the Lib Dems are for and praying for some kind of revival of their fortunes as we decline. Well, it has been a difficult time for us but the answer to that existential question is here. This is what the Lib Dems are for: doing stuff, delivering on our promises, keeping the Tories in check, reforming the banks, sorting out the mess left by Labour.

In three years' time we can go to voters and show them that we have actually done stuff in government. I'm no expert but I reckon people will quite like that.