Monday, February 28, 2005


I wonder why the Tories don't want the BBC to show the drama set around the Miner's strike. (see Guardian report here)

Ahh, it couldn't be because it reminds us that the Tories, far from being the lovers of liberty they claim, actually stopped people crossing county boundaries?

They would do the same to us given the chance again, that's why, no matter what, I can never be a Tory, they see freedom as only something they deserve.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

End of the first division season

Season 03 of the YeovilGames Blood Bowl league is now over.

The Furburgers slipped quietly out of the division, losing 3-0 to the Midnight Howlers. The scale of the Howlers victory combined with the Maelstrom Crew surprisingly losing 2-0 to the Pyrple Panzies mean that it's the Howlers who end up with the first division title.

The Griffons and Horrors played out a 2-2 draw in the day's highest scoring game, while Tomb King Titans laboured to a 1-0 victory over second-division bound Eeep Itzasnake.

Getting relegated from the Premiership are Da Skullrippaz and Rottingham Deathspurs, two hard hitting sides. Coming up from Division 2 are Orczillaz and the Row Men.

Final Table
1. Midnight Howlers (Human) 57
2. Maelstrom Crew (Chaos) 52
3. Pyrple Panzies (Human) 43
4. Tomb King Titans (Khermi) 42
5. Lothlorien Griffons (High Elf) 38
6. Harlem Horrors (Dark Elf) 37
7. Furburgers (Skaven) 29
8. Eeep Itzasnake (Snotling) 7

Being Lazy

Apologies for the posting being a bit light this week.

I really have to address the Tory proposals for the NHS published last week. It just feels too much like work right now. Suffice to say, they are ill-thought out. Actually I'll quickly dive into it now.

Merging Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) together and abolishing SHAs (Strategic Health Authorities). While there is a case for the PCT move (I'll explain why in the next week), this will end up centralising the NHS even more than in it was in 1997, I'm not sure that squares with the Tories' stated aim of moving decisions as close to the grassroots as possible.

Abolishing targets, but actually not abolishing targets. This is a con-job, they say in one breath that central targets are disorting the performance of the NHS, but on in the next breath propose that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) will set the targets instead.

Last but not least for now. Give the private sector the right of supply to the NHS. That's right, even if Yeovil Hospital had spare capacity, they would be forced by law to outsource some of it's clinical activity to private companies. What's that all about?

Harlem Horrors Preview

The final first division matches of the season are to be played this afternoon.

Maelstrom Crew have confirmed promotion to the Premiership and Midnight Howlers look set to join them. At the bottom, Eeep Itzasnake are condemned to the drop so the focus turns to the scramble to avoid that last relegation spot.

7th place - Furburgers (29 points)
The bookies favourite for relegation, the only Skaven team in the league will have their work cut out playing the premiership-bound Howlers. However the other teams will write off the Furburgers chances at their peril, the Skavens are fast and with the Howlers having very little to play for, there could be a surprise in store.

6th place - Harlem Horrors (32 points)
If the Furburgers do get a win, the loser of the Horrors game with the Griffons would be odds-on to go down. The Dark Elves will be reliant on their two Witch Elf Blitzers in order to take command of the match against their good aligned cousins.

5th place - Lothlorien Griffons (32 points)
Ahead of the Horrors only on touchdown difference (13-11 compared to 10-9), the Griffons know they have to win. Thethin, their on-loan player from Premiership champs Anlec Citadels will be crucial in providing steel to the somewhat weak Griffons front line.

4th place - Tomb King Titans (33 points)
While mathematically in the relegation dogfight, the Titans are closing their season by hosting Eeep Itzasnake, it would be the shock of the season for the Titans not to win that match comfortably.

3rd place - Pyrple Panzies (33 points)
The Panzies would have expected to be safe at this stage of the season, but they do face the champions-elect Maelstrom Crew and in the event of a Furburger win and a Horrors-Griffons draw, then a defeat to the Crew would send the Panzies down to Division 2.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Shameless self-promotion

If Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes can do it, I can do it too. Of course, Iain might only mean that I'm interesting on his blog.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

English is from the US?

No sooner had I taken the NRO off my list of links, then this piece of sheer stupidity from Denis Boyles brings me right back to the conservative journal.

Europeans hate the way Americans talk. They think we're loud and uncouth and they don't like our jokes, except for Michael Moore. Plus, they resent the fact that they’ve had to learn our language because if they didn’t we wouldn’t buy their stupid metric widgets or visit their overpriced ruins.

Hello Earth to Denis, who do you think invented English? Clue, it's something to do with the name. And last I saw, England was in Europe.

Costing the Lib Dems

Just got involved into a Tory v Lib Dem conflict over on Iain Dale's site. Iain's claiming that the average couple would be £634/year worse off, some fellow called James disputed that, saying that the couple would have to earn a total of £50k. Now, me and my flatmate don't earn anything like that, but I think that we'll be around £600/year worse off. So something's got to give.

Here's my calculations.

If £37,000 p.a equals £1,000 local income tax and £10,000 p.a. equals £114 local income tax then (as long as there's one rate) that means that the local income tax allowance is set at £6,526 and the tax rate at 3.28%.

Income Tax as a total brings in £127 billion. Source
(the piechart on page 12). Income Tax allowance is set at £4,745 and if we say that there are 35 million income tax payers then the average income tax payer earns £21,239, paying £3,629 income tax.

If we use the same average figure for local income tax payers then the local income tax will only bring in £16.9 billion. which is much less than the £24 billion that council tax currently raises.

The only figure I've had to guess at is the number of taxpayers, but that doesn't change the net receipts as much as you would think, more taxpayers would use more allowances and bring the total take down slightly, 40 million taxpayers would bring in £16.6 billion, 30 million would pay £17.2 billion.

If there's anything anyone can add that I've missed, please help me out here.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Link changes

I'm changing around my links.

Coming in are:
Mo's Musings from England it's good to hear an American perspective on the UK.
Europhobia a primarily EU/Kilroy/UKIP centred blog that's interested me for a while.
And to balance out the political balance a bit (I've realised that I am far more likely to link to people I disagree with then people I like) Matt T and Thought at the Meridian

I'm also moving a few out. Andrew Sullivan, Dan Drezner, the NRO Corner and the Volokh Conspiracy are all excellent blogs that deserve support, but they are American and as I've settled into blogging, bear no relation to anything I want to talk about.


I said that I'm not opposed to hunting, which may come as a surprise to any blog readers who don't know me. What I've realised is that I'm opposed to hunters, the people who think they rule me.

The ban on hunting is clearly unjust, anyone can see that, it's not supported on animal welfare grounds, it's certainly illiberal. However I can't stop myself being pleased that it's banned. It's even better than your team scoring an injury time goal, in an offside position, with a handball and with the referee not noticing the foul on the goalkeeper. The fact that it's unjust just makes it feel all the sweeter to me.

Dennis Skinner supposedly said something like "This makes up for the miners." No it doesn't Dennis, The ruling class have done us down for nearly 1,000 years, this is one victory against a millennium of hurt and the more they don't like it, the more I'll enjoy it.


I don't do poetry, but here's one that caught my eye by Ian McMillan


Farewell to the scarlet coats thundering through woods,
Farewell to the sharp stink of fear,
Farewell to the fox hunt, and I'm saying GOOD; and I'm raising my voice in a cheer,
Farewell to tradition, if that's what it is, though it's feeling quite feudal from here,
Farewell to the blood from a fox hound's sharp kiss and I'm raising my voice in a cheer,
Farewell to the mornings where mist cools your face and England of Cricket, warm beer
and folks in big flat caps who all know their place,
and I'm raising my voice in a cheer.

You're chasing the past, chaps, not chasing a fox; you're chasing a country that's gone,
They've altered the windows and changed all the locks; you're riding a land that's moved on,
and I didn't see the hunters at the head of the crowd when they closed down the factories and mines;
I didn't hear the hunting horn blaring out loud, at the head of the picket lines.
Democracy spoken, the pack's caught you up and let down the tires on your sport,
So please don't be whining like a whipped hunting pup, cos it's farewell to you and your sort.

Farewell to the stirrup cup,
Farewell the thrill of tearing a fox like a shredder shreds bills, and look, there's a fox
and he's standing quite still,
no, he's raising two fingers from the top of that hill,
Farewell to the scarlet coats thundering through woods,
Farewell to the sharp stink of fear,
Farewell to the fox hunt and I'm saying GOOD; and I'm raising my voice in a cheer

Michael Howard on Breakfast Time

I'm not convinced by Howard's performance today.

Started off by saying that "the Poll Tax was a mistake" ouch, The Candidate won't be happy.

Stumbled a bit around the "Why wouldn't a Local Income Tax be even fairer?" question by saying that pensioners wanted a fair deal but didn't want the burden to fall on "their children" under Local Income Tax. In contrast Howard said that the pensioner council tax rebate would be funded by the general taxpayer.

He ended well though, the usual spin about Tory Councils costing less and Labour stealth taxes that doesn't actually stand up to scrutiny bt I suspect will go across well with the public.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


News of the World Article 20th Feb
EXCLUSIVE: Posh to have her baby on Feb 25th

ANXIOUS Victoria Beckham is flying her own medical team over to Spain—even though they WON'T be allowed to deliver her third baby.

Posh will give birth by caesarean section at a private hospital in Madrid on Friday.

BBC News Report
20th Feb
Victoria and David Beckham are celebrating the birth of their third son, who they have named Cruz.

The couple said they were "delighted" after a caesarean section delivery in Madrid at 1040 local time (0940 GMT) on Sunday. The baby weighed 7lb (3.2kg).

Should Kate Hoey lose the whip?

From the Sunday Telegraph today

There was further defiance from Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, who described her party colleagues as "bigoted and prejudiced" when she addressed the Duke of Beaufort's hunt in Gloucestershire to which the Prince of Wales belongs.

"The law is unenforceable. It cannot last long. We will prevail and this law will have to be overturned," she declared to resounding cheers from supporters. I feel a deep sadness that my Government has allowed this ban to go through, but I have confidence in my country and the people of my country that an unjust law cannot last very long. Today is the beginning of the end of a ban on hunting."

So we have a Labour MP, criticising other Labour MPs at a public meeting and encouraging those present to vote for a Tory majority with a hefty majority at the next election (as that's the only way there could be a pro-hunting majority in the House of Commons). There are truly honourable Labour MPs who have been pro-hunting, people like Robin Cook and Tony Wright, they don't denigrate their colleagues.

I think it's time that Kate Hoey is thrown out of the Labour Party, if she wants to travel the country campaigning for the Tories to win the next General Election, let her join them.

Maelstrom Crew vs Furburgers

The Skaven Furburgers managed to accrue five league points from a creditable 2-2 draw with Maelstrom Crew so the Griffons are not out of the relegation dogfight yet. The equation for survival is simple for the High Elf team, victory over the Harlem Horrors will ensure first division football at the Glade next season. Anything else will mean that the elves will have to rely on other results going their way.

Meanwhile there is a potential controversy over the Howlers-Panzies matchup. The fixture list initially had the match to be played today, but as that was inconvienient for the Howlers, it was moved to Saturday 19th. This time it was the Panzies that cancelled the match. Due to the League Commissioner's insistance that the final games are played at the same time on Sunday 27th, the two coaches will have to resolve the impasse, if not one or both teams may be penalised by the League.

Countryside Alliance News part 2

Lewis points out in the comments below that maybe the CA press release was correct at the time. However as time goes on, that seems less and less likely to me.

Countryside Alliance Press Release 19th Feb (still the same one)
There are no reports of anyone having been arrested in relation to offences committed under the Hunting Act.

BBC News Report 19th Feb
However, the first arrests under the new legislation were made. Four people were arrested by police in Wiltshire for illegal hunting of hares with dogs under Section 1 of the new Act.

It could be suggested that it's unfair to criticise the Countryside Alliance for not updating their press releases early enough. However they do have a full-time PR staff, several regional directors and this is one of the most important weekends in the CA campaign. Having a clearly incorrect statement on their website either makes them look stupid, or just unwilling to admit that one of the main planks of their campaign, that the legislation is unworkable and unenforcable, is turning out to be incorrect.

Tony Banks will be missed

It's a shame that Tony Banks is standing down at the upcoming election, I just noticed this in Hansard.

Hansard 1994/95 Column 1310

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater): I try to understand the views of people who are really involved with the countryside--I do not mean those who simply think they are--and I accept that they perhaps have different standards and experiences. They live much closer to the life and death cycle.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West): They should see Stratford.

Mr. King: The debate would not be complete without a crack from the hon. Gentleman.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Countryside Alliance News

I'm not sure if the Countyside Alliance's Press Office are just inefficient or if there's something more sinister at work.

Countryside Alliance Press Release 19th Feb
There are no reports of anyone having been arrested in relation to offences committed under the Hunting Act.

BBC News Report 19th Feb

Four men have been arrested by police in Wiltshire in what are believed to be the first arrests under the new hunting legislation.

vs Eeip Itzasnake

Difficult start but once one of Eeip's Pumpwagons had careered off the pitch and another broken down the Griffons took control of the game. A riot at the beginning of the second half reduced the time available but the Griffons ended up with a comfortable 3-0 victory. Griffons gained 5 bonus points to add to the six points for a win, Eeip just got a solitary bonus point.

The Griffons win has sealed Eeip's relegation to the second division and gone a long way towards securing Griffon's safety. The pressure now moves to the Furburgers, in seventh place but with a game in hand. If they lose to the Maelstrom Crew, they will be favourites for the drop.

Iron Ladies

Visiting the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website I noticed this.

Iron Ladies: Women in Thatcher's Britain
The Women's Library, London Metropolitan University
22 October 2004 – 2 April 2005
Entrance free

What was it like to be Britain's first female prime minister? What
legacy did Margaret Thatcher create for women and the women's movement?
Was Thatcher's election a reflection of women's changing social roles,
or a political one-off? Iron Ladies: Women in Thatcher’s Britain is the
first exhibition to consider the impact of ‘Thatcherism’ on British
women in the 1980s, and to look at the ways in which Margaret Thatcher’s
presence as a role model affected women’s lives. Using a wide range of
original material, including previously unseen visual and archival
documents, photographs, posters, memorabilia and clothing of the period,
the exhibition addresses central issues from this defining period of
recent history.

They use this photo, I'm not sure that any of these women thought of Thatcher as a role model.

Blood Bowl Preview

Lothlorien Griffons travel today (5:00pm) to the Snot Bowl to play their relegation rivals Eeip Itzasnake in the penultimate game of the season. Eeip, the only Snotling team in the league already look set for the drop into the second division, having not won a game all season, while the Griffons must be full of confidence after beating championship favourites the Maelstrom Crew 3-2 last Sunday.

The Griffons will be without hat-trick hero Grassrider, having suffered a broken hand in the closing minutes of the match against the Crew. It is hoped that he will be fit enough for Sunday 27th's game against the Harlem Horrors.

On paper, the Griffons look to be far too strong for Eeip and should pick up at least three bonus points in addition to the six points for the win, but as their coach pointed out in a press conference yesterday, Blood Bowl games are not played on paper. The match against the Crew last week showed that shocks can happen.

Current League Tables

This Weekend's Fixtures
Saturday 19th February
Anlec Citadels v De SkullRippaz
Iron Guards v Slavers Inc
Da Boozers v Eddie's Babies
First Division
Midnight Howlers v Pyrple Panzies
Eeip Itzasnake v Lothlorien Griffons

Sunday 20th February
Loren Mapleleaves v Rottingham Deathspurs
First Division
Maelstrom Crew v Furburgers

Friday, February 18, 2005

Hunting and me

I don't view myself as being opposed to hunting, however today's posts would certainly give that impression, so this post is to try and explain my position:

Before moving to Somerset in 1996, I hadn't lived in a hunting area, I can't even remember thinking about hunting. Then in the next year, I was in an area where hunting was an issue. In the 1997 election, our Labour candidate was asked by very many people where he said on hunting, he said he was opposed to it, and not having a settled view on the issue, I kind of settled into a default Labour opposition.

At the Young Labour Conference 1997, there was a workshop, it was called something like "Rights and Freedoms" we were in an eight or so, each had to defend a right. I can't remember whether I choose it or got it randomly, but I remember the gasp from the rest of the group when I got the card, "Defend the right to hunt foxes".

I didn't know the animal welfare issues one way or the other So I decided to defend the right in very Labour terms. I acknowledged that there was a balance of rights, between the right of hunters to exercise their hobby and the right of countryside dwellers not to have their land trepassed. I didn't touch on animal welfare at all, think I mentioned football and you wouldn't ban football just because of the actions of hooligans. What a lot of people don't realise is that there is significant opposition in rural areas to hunting, but I've never heard a rural dweller oppose hunting due to the cruelty, it's always the thuggish nature of some hunt followers that make them upset. By the end of my piece, I think I'd gained the respect of the others in the group and managed to shift my own views somewhat.

So what happened, well, what happened was partly me and partly the way the Countryside Alliance framed the debate. The Alliance from the very start, framed the debate as country vs town, as hunters vs Labour. They poured so much viterol on townies and Labour Party members and as I was both I felt they meant me. Now, some may say that there was a lot of muck thrown the other way, but the CA should still have reached out to those of us on the Labour side who were more or less undecided, instead with every action they pushed us into opposition.

The Countryside Alliance did pursue a policy of meeting individual MPs but in so doing missed out an important fact about the Labour Party, CLPs have more power over a sitting MP than Conservative Associations do. Even if the MP was persuaded, it would have been a brave MP to stand against a hostile CLP, especially in the hunting issue where there would have been no advantage politically to break ranks. The CA didn't help by not giving any credit to Labour MPs who did support them. There is no supportive comment about Kate Hoey anywhere on the CA site, and Alun Michael, someone who bent over backwards to thrash out a compromise, is usually labelled as "devious" on the CA site.

I was a CLP secretary for a while, on the Executive Committee for the rest of the time and never did the CA write to the CLP offering to talk with us? When there's a debate, but one side doesn't want to talk to you, then there's only one way the debate's going to go.

Even now, the hunt supporters are making enemies when they should be making friends. One of the CA slogans is Support Freedom, Support Tolerance. What tolerance have they ever shown to us?

New Links

Two new links added today, both of a more right-wing bent.

Adam Smith Institute - Bunch of nutters who believe the merely changing the ownership of an enterprise from private to public automatically makes it more efficient.

David Stewart - Politics student from my old stomping ground, Stirling University, and he agreed with me on the Jack McConnell issue.

The Countryside Alliance condemns...

...Dan Norris for being in Badminton.

Their press release
The Countryside Alliance has condemned Labour MP for Wansdyke, Dan Norris, following his visit to the foxhunting village of Badminton to gloat on the eve of the hunt ban coming into force. Badminton residents are appalled by the misleading spin and accusations made by Mr Norris.

Villagers at Badminton, in the heart of Gloucestershire foxhunting country, were furious that the MP had left his constituency in order to provoke a reaction in a community that will be deeply damaged by the Hunting Act. Many people's homes and jobs in rural areas depend on hunting, especially in villages like Badminton.

Countryside Alliance Regional Director Delly Everard commented: "Dan Norris is an experienced MP who understands the passions that hunting evokes, especially in rural areas. I can only speculate on his motivation, which seemed to many Badminton residents to be nothing more than a sick publicity stunt."

Okay, lets look at this. BBC Points West decided to do an interview/debate between Dan Norris, an MP who has been vocal in his support for the hunt ban, and a member of the Beaufort Hunt. Dan Norris accepts and the BBC decide to hold the debate in the Beaufort's home village of Badminton. Before the BBC could actually do the interview, Norris was pelted with eggs and cream and, Norris says, his assistant was punched. The CA deny that she was punched but in the general confusion of the event, I've seen clips on TV, I can't see how anyone can say that no punches were thrown. So he didn't come to Badminton to gloat, he visited to take part in a civilised debate, the venue of which he did not choose.

Even if he had gone there to gloat, are the CA really saying that there should be parts of Britain off-limits to people who hold certain political views? Some lovers of freedom they are.

Civil Disobedience

Because the updates on the Hunt Defenders post are getting confusing, I'm bringing it back up to the top.

John says that "I do not support it and have not said anywhere that I do" is a vague condemnation. I'm happy to accept that in the spirit that it's offered.

He further says "I certainly consider physical violence as a possible form of civil disobedience, but I do not give it my support." I think that's a little further than I would go, but it's a logical position, the whole issue is an interesting debate I would like to have when cooler heads prevail.

One more comment "Indeed, I remember as a younger man feeling simply dreadful the day that taxi driver was killed by a protesting miner when he threw that concrete slab off that bridge and it is not something I have forgotten." I remember that day, it was probably worse for me, I was 12, the miners were my heroes, I felt much the same about Thatcher as it seems John thinks about Blair now. Up until then, at least to me, the miners held the high moral ground, I knew a policeman (my best friend's elder brother) who flew up to Nottinghamshire every week and came home to boast about beating up (his words) picketing miners, that one comment has remained with me forever. In my mind, Scargill could do no wrong (well, I was only 12). But then that poor taxi driver died, and it was my heroes who had killed him. I remember I went through the denial, the justifications, but it very soon dawned on me that the miners had been wrong. It doesn't matter how right you are, it's not worth that. It seemed to me that the steam went out of the strike at that moment, as people came to the same realisation as me.

John has said that the protesters have overstepped the mark and I applaud him for that. I'd better get off and do some work, no more posts until this evening.


The Countryside Alliance's new slogan looks a little bit inappropriate considering last night's events.

More mindless violence

Sadly, it seems that the Beaufort Hunt isn't the only hunters who, stopped from killing foxes have turned to hitting women instead.

Fifteen members of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt attacked eight hunt protesters. (Source The Sun). A woman suffered head injuries, a 27-year old had severe head injuries and an elderly man was kicked and punched, his glasses smashed and camera stolen.

The Hunt Defenders

John at the England Project has just posted on the topic of the Hunt Ban and has an attempt at explaining the hunt supporters' feelings.
Some of these hundreds of thousand of people will be angrier than others and some of those will not be able to help themselves in expressing that anger. Any large group will have some people among them who are less able to control their rage. I hope and pray that any incidents will be few and far between and minor.

Minor? Punching a woman because she happens to work for a Member of Parliament who you have a disagreement with? How would John feel if someone punched his wife because someone was upset with her boss?

But of course, John explains that's all the government's fault and he has a go at stoking up the temperature even more.
For some it is no longer about who is wrong and who is right; that process has pretty much run its course and those in the wrong were fortunate enough to have the ear of some of the most wickedly illiberal men and women to have ever held influence in this country.

John, you really ought to look at what you've written. Do you really believe that huntsmen and women are above the law? Do you really think that punching a woman is okay if you're angry?

UPDATE 18th Feb - John's replied to my comments above as an update of his post here.

He says that he hadn't heard about the Badminton incident before writing his post and I apologise to him for assuming that he had.

He says that "I believe that the law is wrong on this issue and I would support a policy of civil disobedience on the issue." Civil Disobidence is a bedrock of our democracy, indeed as I said above egg-throwing is to my mind perfectly acceptable, the problem I have with John's post is that he seems to consider physical violence as civil disobidence. John is going to respond to that by pointing out that he's never said he supports it, however he has managed to write about it now without even vaguely condemning it. All I want to hear from him is that the Beaufort and the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunts have overstepped the bounds of what's acceptable.

UPDATE 18th Feb - Catching a report on BBC West about the Badminton incident, it seems that Dan Norris was actually prevented from taking part in the debate by the egg-throwing. Intimidating people into remaining silent, in my view, also steps over the bounds of decent democratic behaviour.

How low will they go?

Dan Norris (Lab, Wansdyke) was in Badminton, Gloucestershire last night. Some hunt supporters pelted him and his staff with eggs and someone punched his female assistant (Source BBC Gloucestershire)

Dan Norris himself was remarkably even handed, "It is unfortunate because I don't think these hot heads are typical of the behaviour I have seen from the pro-hunt lobby. It's a great shame because I don't think they do their cause any good, and they let their side down."

Sadly, the Beaufort Hunt's joint master Captain Ian Farquhar was less concilliatory (especially considering it was his people that had acted disgracefully). "He's come out of his constituency and he's the one that's pushed though this bill which will put people out of work. He's here to gloat he's right ... and I think that stinks."

But Dan Norris wasn't there to gloat, he was invited by BBC Points West to take part in a live interview/debate with hunt supporters.

Pelting politicians with eggs is just part of our political culture and I wouldn't want to condemn that. But when your "protest" involves punching a woman, that's completely unacceptable and I call on the Countryside Alliance to unequivocally make clear that such actions have absolutely no merits whatsoever and to point out that the Beaufort Hunt have demeaned the image of hunt supporters everywhere.

UPDATE 18th Feb - Of course Captain Farquhar doesn't have his facts right either, Dan Norris isn't the one that's pushed through this bill. His bill was the Private Member's Bill that was talked out in 1998.

UPDATE 18th Feb - A spokeswoman for the Beaufort Hunt said "I think he [Dan Norris] was asking for it. [The action]was definitely not from a drunken minority". So, John, these are the people you have allied yourself with.

RIP Hunting

A brand new day and one where the people who thought they were above the law will wake up and realise that they have to obey the law like the rest of us.

UPDATE 18th Feb - Seems that I had been giving the hunt supporters too much credit. Sorry.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Lib Dems *are* in favour of ASBOs - Official

From Western Gazette 17th Feb 2005

Drunken yobs could find themselves facing football-style red and yellow cards in the latest crackdown on anti-social behaviour in Yeovil. The scheme is being piloted in Taunton and Cllr Tony Fife, who is the portfolio holder for community safety for South Somerset District Council, said if is successful it could be introduced in Yeovil by autumn.

Based on the "three strikes and you are out" rule, once a person is convicted of an anti-social offence involving alcohol they will be issued the yellow card, featuring information on the damage alcohol does to the body.

A second conviction is accompanied by a red card which automatically bans the offender from all licensed premises for 28 days and a third conviction would mean an automatic anti-social behaviour order.

Cllr Fife said: "There is evidence that this is proving successful in Taunton and, if it continues, we would look at bringing it into Yeovil.

Mr Fife is a Lib Dem. Does Mark Oaten know?


Great picture of Charlie Kennedy. (Hat tip Lib Dem Watch)

Defending a Lib Dem

Regular readers will know that I don't support the Lib Dems, but when the need arises I am fair enough to do so.

Somerset County Councillor Tim Carroll (Lib Dem, Wincanton & Bruton) is also chairman of the Environment and Transport Policy Committee and has been a stauch campaigner for the strict imposition of speed limits throughout the county.

On 4th September he was caught driving at 40mph in a 30mph zone through Bayford and last week was fined £60 and got 3 points on his licence.

Clive Allen, the Tory PPC covering Tim Carroll's patch called on him to resign his position, he said, "What a hypocrite, He no longer has any credibility in campaigning for speed measures"

What a lot of nonsense. Certainly for a speed limits campaigner to be caught speeding is embarrassing, but has no bearing on his work as a councillor or as a campaigner. There is absolutely no need for this man to resign.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


A real comment on the Veritas forum:

"Those who so love the foreigners should all go and live with them! I have wished they would very fervently for nearly a year, now! If I pray hard enough, maybe God will hear me. Let's all pray really hard that God will send them all to the Third World, and not let them come back! I bet those countries would take them, because they could make use of their talents/whatever. Or eat them for dinner! Or something. Robert Mugabe would love them, I bet!"

Political cold-calling

This report says that both Labour and the Tories are continuing to phone people who are registered on the Telephone Preference Scheme.

Now I used to argue strongly that we (the Labour Party) shouldn't call TPS homes as we didn't want to annoy them. But since I've registered onto TPS, I've changed my mind.

I didn't register with TPS because I didn't want to be cold-called. I joined because of just 2 companies (I'll name and shame here, Anglian Windows and Tele2) who used to phone me most evenings and simply not take no for an answer. I don't mind if the Tories or the Labour Party phone me. I would be very interested if the Lib Dems do despite their holier-than-thou attitude.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Daily Mail can't report the truth

I'm backing Ken Livingstone on his crusade against Der Stürmer oops, I meant the Daily Mail and it's sister the Evening Standard.

Interestingly the Daily Mail manage to report the growing row without mentioning the meat of Livingstone's comment. I'll repeat it here for the benefit of any Mail readers.

"Although we uniquely have some brilliant newspapers and first-rate journalists, their standing is dragged down by what must be some of the most reprehensibly managed, edited and owned newspapers in the world."

"They have a disgraceful record, none more so than the Daily Mail,"

"When it was first set up [in 1896] its first campaign was against Jewish refugees coming to London from the pogroms. It continued its anti-Semitism in the 1930s, fighting any proposals that Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler should be admitted to this country."

"Had Britain lost the war and had the Nazis controlled Britain, Lord Rothermere and his cohorts would have been at the front of the queue of collaborators."

Quite right Ken.

UPDATE 16th Feb - Guido Fawkes has pointed out that Ken's distate at Associated Newspapers hasn't stopping him writing for the Standard in the past. Doesn't make him wrong, just a hypocrite.

The Young Saints prosper

Southampton U-18s beat their Arsenal counterparts 1-0 in front of 3,000 fans at St.Mary's tonight to book their place in the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup. Well done the lads.

UPDATE 15th Feb - Saints now face a trip to East London for the quarter finals. They will play the winner of the Leyton Orient v West Ham match that's played tomorrow.

UPDATE 17th Feb - West Ham beat Leyton Orient 3-2 last night so it's West Ham v Southampton in the quarter final.

Monday, February 14, 2005

St Johns at sunset

No reason for the pic, just like it.


A pub in Kent is to reintroduce smoking six months after banning it.

John over at England Project says that it's "just one of the many reasons why decisions on when and where customers are allowed to smoke should be left to private businesses"

I beg to differ.

It's just the reason why government has to take a steer. The Junction Inn banned smoking, so smokers (and their) friends moved to other pubs in the area. All the pubs have to work in concert to do anything like that. I personally would prefer self-regulation, but without that, then government has to step in.

Friday, February 11, 2005


The BBC have published what they say are the nine most useless quangos but some of their choices are a bit odd.

Admittedly I think that we could do without the British Potato Council, but I don't think that anyone that remembers Ibrox, Bradford or Hillsborough could object to the Football Licensing Authority and anyone whose wages depend on the Agricultural Wages Committees' decisions would hardly call that quango useless.

Hey Mr Tangerine Man

Great flash movie featuring this blogs favourite orange-hued chat show host turned MEP

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Charles and the Princess Consort

Best wishes to Charles and Camilla. As an ardent republican I'm completely indifferent to the whole royalty thing, but they are two people who obviously love each other and want to be married, what could be wrong with that.

The most interesting thing is the titles, Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Consort. I never cease to be amazed by the British Constitution's ability to make things up but make it sound like we've done it that way for hundreds of years.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Guildford Four

Tony Blair's made an apology to the Guildford Four but isn't it a bit pointless. In 1974 Tony Blair was still a hippy student, he bears no personal responsibility for the imprisonment of four innocent men for 15 years. Shouldn't the people who should be saying sorry the police that fitted them up and the government of the time who were more happy to see someone sent down for the bombings than getting the right people (who have remained free all this time)

Danish Elections

Anders Fogh Rasmussen has won the general election in Denmark, but not without losing seats and sadly being unable to do without the right-wing Danish People's Party

Liberal Party: 52 seats (lost 4 on 2001)
Danish People's Party: 24 (gained 2)
Conservative Party: 19 (gained 3)
Total Government Coalition: 95

Social Democratic Party: 47 (lost 5)
Social Liberal Party: 16 (gained 7)
Socialist People's Party: 11 (lost 1)
Unity List: 6 (gained 2)
Christian Democrats: 0 (lost 4)
Others: 4 (no change)
Total Opposition: 84

How much will Veritas Cost?

Finally there a hint of a manifesto up at Veritas. As they believe that they are top of the polls by 3% from Labour at the moment, I thought it would be interesting to cost their promises.

Immigration and Asylum Seekers - by only accepting the UK's "fair share" they claim to reduce costs by £1.5 billion/year.

Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour - Open all police stations 24/7 and recruit 40,000 extra police officers. My estimate cost £2 billion/year.

Pensions - Increase married pension by £48.75/week and single pension by £30.40/week. Difficult one to cost because for pensioners claiming Pension Credit, their pensions will not rise that much but a back of an envelope costing puts that at £8 billion/year.

Tax - Raise the Income Tax threshold so that a million workers are taken out of paying tax altogether. Of course, if you simply raise the threshold, all taxpayers benefit by the same amount. Estimated cost £26 billion/year.

Tax - Scrap Council Tax and pay for local services from national taxation, as they haven't mentioned increasing national taxation, that's a cost, another £24 billion/year.

Tax - Scrap Inheritance Tax on the family home. Despite what the Daily Mail might say, IHT on family homes is not a big money-spinner for the treasury and so this provision would not be a significant cost.

Tax - Likewise raising the Stamp Duty threshold on first-time buyers from £60k to £150k would not have large Treasury implications, although would make the bureaucracy more complex, together IHT and Stamp Duty costs wouldn't be more than £0.5 billion/year.

Drugs & Drink - Restoring Marriage Allowances and increasing tax allowances for families with children under the age of 5. Because they don't say how much, it's difficult to cost, but assuming it will be at a low-cost but symbolic level, lets say £1 billion/year including cost of administration. (By the way, why is this proposal under the Drugs and Drink heading?)

Europe - Here's the saving, according to Veritas, CIVITAS say EU membership costs the UK £40 billion/year. In fact CIVITAS reckon that EU membership costs somewhere between £17 billion/year and £40 billion/year, I'll be nice and we'll split the difference and make the cost to the UK £29 billion/year.

So, what's the score
Costs per year
Extra Police = £2b
Pensions = £8b
Income Tax Changes = £26b
Council Tax = £24b
IHT & Stamp Duty = £½b
Marriage and Family Tax Changes = £1b
TOTAL COST = £61½ billion/year

Savings per year
Reducing Asylum Seekers = £1½b
Leaving the EU = £29b
TOTAL SAVINGS = £30½ billion/year

That still leaves £31 billion short, maybe the Party of Truth would like to explain where the rest is coming from.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Heroes of the Black Peaks Online

My pencil and paper Dungeons and Dragons campaign is going online. If you're interested please email me at

Can't be true?

From the BBC

Snooker star Jimmy White is changing his name to Jimmy Brown, as part of a madcap sponsorship deal.
The Whirlwind decided on his new moniker following news that the brown ball in all major tournaments is to be backed by a sauce manufacturer.

Not only that, White will ditch his usual black tuxedo for the forthcoming Masters event in favour of a brown one.

"With a bit of luck, the name Jimmy Brown will be engraved on the Masters trophy at the end of next week," he said.

"The sponsorship of the brown ball really puts the fun back into snooker and, given my previous surname, I wanted to follow that lead.

"I think it is also up to the players to help liven up snooker's image and raise its profile, and I feel good to do my bit with the help of HP."

White, who changed his name by deed poll, plans to keep his new title for the duration of the Masters - and possibly even the World Championships.

And after suffering heartbreak at the Crucible on six occasions, perhaps it will be just the tonic he needs.

Can anyone confirm this story, and how exactly can you sponsor the Brown Ball?

UPDATE 9th Feb - Apparently it is true, and HP Sauce will have a little logo on the brown ball

Monday, February 07, 2005

Honorary Scottish

I note that I've been linked to as "Honorary Scottish" by Stuart Dickson. I'm not sure why I'm honorary Scottish, the only time I've ever been there was to attend Stirling University, but there's a lot worse things to be called.

Thinking what they are thinking?

I'm back.

The Tories have this billboard (coincidentally outside Yeovil's Labour Club). The sheer cheek of that as an election poster takes my breath away.

I just happened to be sent the Cardiff University / UNISON report "Hospital Contract Cleaning and Infection Control" in the post last week. The pdf version is here. It presents a convincing case that the worsening of infection control in the NHS is a result of contract cleaning.

Basically the theory goes like this, since cleaning services in the NHS started being outsourced in 1986, there have been a downward pressure on cleaner numbers, wages have gone down (relatively), training has been squeezed out and retention has worsened. If you ask 1 untrained person to clean a ward instead of 2 trained cleaners, then it stands to reason that the quality of cleaning has gone down.

The rise in MRSA in today's hospitals can be directly traced back to the Tories health policies of the 1980s, although it must be said that Labour haven't done as much as they should in solving the problem.

But maybe that's being unfair on Michael Howard, maybe he realises the error of his ways and is promising to employ more cleaners and actually pay them more than Tescos does. What it is they say about private sector CEOs, you have to pay the right money to get the right people? Surely the same should be said about hospital cleaners. Unfortunately, the Tories don't want to employ more cleaners, they want to increase outsourcing to more parts of the NHS. But surely they want to solve the MRSA? It seems that the only policy they have is to "free" hospitals from the "burden" of telling the Dept of Health how much MRSA they have. So the Tories aren't even pretending that they will solve the problem, merely sweep it under the carpet.

Even for Michael Howard, that's disgusting.