Friday, October 28, 2005
You too can have a policy like mine
Don't let Labour home secretaries kick sand in your face!
Treat yourself to a do-it-yourself ASBO.
Only £1.99 each.
Lend us a quid till the end of the week
The controversy surrounding millionaire Michael Brown's donation of £2.4 million to the Liberal Democrats won't go away.
The first signs of trouble appeared in May when the donor's name first became public. The story suggesting a breach of election law broke in the Times during the Liberal Democrats' autumn conference (see the original reports on 23rd, 23rd again and 24th September). The party was subsequently let off the hook by the Electoral Commission.
This week, however, there are a couple of new twists to the story. Beginners unaware of the full sordid details may care to peruse this Thursday's and Friday's copious press coverage:
- The Times here, here, here, here, here, here - and a bizarre letter from the donor in Friday's edition here.
- The Scotsman here.
Party officials have repeatedly pointed out that the party acted in good faith and with due diligence. So far, the Electoral Commission has accepted their word. But I hear the sound of chickens coming home to roost.
In recent years, the Liberal Democrats have been shrouding many of their financial matters in secrecy, so that even the party's Federal Executive has been kept in the dark. Separate bodies have been set up to channel business donations, and the small number of party officers privy to these affairs have reacted angrily whenever any member of the Federal Executive has attempted to probe what has been going on.
With secrecy goes a lack of accountability, and one can't help thinking that the party might never have got into this embarrassing mess if everything had been above board in the first place.
There is also the little matter of hypocrisy. The party has a policy on the funding of political parties, which amongst other things calls for a cap on individual donations of a quarter of a million pounds. Now £2.4 million is not to be sneezed at, but isn't this a case of "do as I say, not as I do"?
In any case, the value of this large donation was diminished somewhat by the fact that much of it was blown on a series of national press adverts, which did little to aid the party's chances during the general election.
The Liberal Democrats are supposed to believe in open government, transparency and accountability. Isn't it time the party practiced what it preached?
Thursday, October 27, 2005
A wise choice
Liberator 306 - out now!
If you are a wise person and subscribe to Liberator magazine, then the latest issue will be popping through your letterbox any day now.
Highlights in this issue include:
- Nick Clegg, Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam, on the dangers of political labels.
- David Rendel, former Lib Dem MP for Newbury, on the legacy of Thatcherism - the central role played by greed in British politics.
- Graham Watson MEP, leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, on the crisis of legitimacy in supranational institutions and NGOs.
If you are a member or supporter of the Liberal Democrats, you can't afford to miss it, so subscribe now! Send a cheque for £20 (payable to 'Liberator Publications'), together with your name and full postal address, to:
24 Alexandra Grove
London N4 2LF
(If you live outside the UK, details of how to subscribe can be found on the home page of the Liberator website).
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
In July 2005 alone, Israel seized more land in the West Bank than it surrendered in Gaza: it withdrew from about 19 square miles of territory while sealing off 23 square miles of the West Bank.
Israel's continuing land grab is a disgrace. As is the silence from Washington and the European capitals, intimidated as they are by 'the lobby'. Israel's policy shares much with Apartheid-era South Africa's policy of Bantustans, yet receives nothing like the same level of international condemnation.
Ariel Sharon treats the 'Road Map' like toilet paper. His new-found reputation as a 'man of peace' rests solely on the perception that his arch-rival Binyamin Netanyahu would be even worse.
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Weblogs and Spam
After a two-week absence from the blogosphere to attend to professional matters, I return to spend an entertaining evening deleting a large quantity of spam from this blog.
If you blog with Blogger.com, you'll be aware that there has been a rash of automated spam content over the past month (for more details, see Blogger Buzz and Bayosphere). The motive behind this spamming is to pollute the search rankings at Google and the blog search engines.
To prevent automated systems from adding comments to this blog, I have taken advantage of Blogger's new word verification facility. It is an additional hurdle for anyone wishing to post a legitimate comment but that is a price worth paying.
While I was about it, I also added the new backlinks facility, to enhance your blog reading pleasure. Backlinks enable one to keep track of other pages on the web that link to one's posts.
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Be afraid. Very afraid
It is even worse than I thought. George Bush is reported to believe he is on a mission from God. White House denials don't wash. The only consolation I can find is that, unlike a disturbingly large proportion of his countrymen, Bush has yet to claim he was abducted by aliens.
At this point, even the most hardened Atlanticists should be thinking, "This is where I get off." Tony Blair's loyalty seems unperturbed and Peter Black rightly asks whether Blair is hearing the same voices as Bush.
I am not one necessarily to agree with Alistair Campbell, but the one occasion he was right was when he said, "we don't do God".
As a confirmed atheist, I regard religion as being on an intellectual par with a belief in fairies at the bottom of the garden. As a confirmed Liberal, I respect other people's rights to hold whatever beliefs they choose, no matter how ridiculous.
It is when demented beliefs enter the public sphere that we should be worried. Religion, like sex, is a matter for consenting adults in private. When personal faith gets mixed up with the exercise of political power, there are usually tears before bedtime.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
And it's goodnight from them...
Just how important is the Tory leadership contest? Whoever wins is most unlikely to become prime minister. And if recent form is anything to go by, the winner is likely to be overthrown in just two years' time.
BBC1's 6pm news last night got it right. The speeches of Ken Clarke and David Cameron were considered somewhat newsworthy, but not as much as the death of Ronnie Barker, which took top billing.
Which means that, instead of some po-faced dissertation on the qualities of Sir Malcolm Rifkind, I can repeat some of Ronnie Barker's better jokes:
In a packed show tonight, we'll be talking to an out-of-work contortionist who can says he can no longer make ends meet.And a prescient political joke regarding the sanity of the Dear Leader:
The toilets at a local police station have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on.
The search for the man who terrorises nudist camps with a bacon slicer goes on. Inspector Lemuel Jones had a tip-off this morning, but hopes to be back on duty tomorrow.
There was a strange happening during a performance of Elgar's Sea Pictures at a concert hall in Bermuda tonight, when the man playing the triangle disappeared.
The prime minister held a meeting with the cabinet today. He also spoke to the bookcase and argued with the chest of drawers.How true, how true.