Saturday, November 03, 2007

Adam Rickitt: Does He Remain "a Person of Interest"?

Former Tory "Eh?" Lister Adam Rickitt vanished from our shores, leaving in a puff of smoke, and he now very believably plays the mysterious Kieran Mitchell in New Zealand's soaptastic Doctors and Nurses murder fantasia Shortland Street:

Kieran Mitchell is an attractive, charming, well-spoken Englishman in his late twenties. When he arrived in New Zealand he gave every impression of being like any other young backpacker working his way around the world. He appeared carefree and uncomplicated and open to adventure. But the impression he gave was only an illusion. If Kieran appeared uncomplicated, it was because his past was something of a blank. And if he appeared open to adventure, it's because he really didn't have much choice. Kieran had been suffering from a serious brain injury, from a severe beating he had received in Thailand. It also unfolded that Kieran had lived a rather unsavoury former life in Thailand, working as a minder for a group of Thai prostitutes.

But this was all kept from those who began to know him.

Kieran's charms secured him a place at el Rancho as flatmate to Claire and Libby. Claire honed in on him and they had a highly charged but secretive ongoing affair. In public, Kieran preferred to be aligned with the sweet natured Libby, for whom he has genuine feelings. Playing the two women off against each other was never going to be a smart idea and the arrival of a mysterious woman from his past, Suchin, complicated his life even further. It was Suchin who filled in the blanks on Kieran's dangerous past.

Suchin was paid off (with Claire's help.) But unfortunately Libby discovered that Kieran was not only a liar but also a cheat - he had been sleeping with Claire and Libby at the same time. The turmoil of losing Libby, Claire's death (at the hands of an unknown killer) and the stress of being a suspect, led Kieran's brain to explode - literally. He had brain surgery which appears to have restored him back to normal.

In fact he has recently become a fully fledged property owner and is making amends to become an upstanding citizen. He bought the I.V Bar - after Jays' death (at the hands of the killer) and is hoping to woo the one love of his life back.

But it's hard to forget that Kieran has a dark side as evidenced when he kidnapped and tortured a punter from the bar (who had insulted Libby) - Justin Salt. Has Kieran got his demons under control? Does he remain "a person of interest" to the police?

But did young Adam Rickitt control his demons? Have we seen the end of his own short, sweet political career? Or could he yet put his thespian, rock and roll and Oxbridge Law days behind him? And rise Blair-like to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

Dis-Respect: Tail Wagging Your Dog? Then Dock It!

It seems that George Galloway's very public bed-in for peace and respect (below) has become a bit of a waking nightmare. A communication arrives mysteriously on the LOL desktop:

Dear Friend,

Please find below two documents:

(1) Renewing Respect, from Linda Smith and Salma Yaqoob

(2) An invitation to the Respect Renewal Conference called by Linda Smith, Salma Yaqoob and 17 other National Council members including George Galloway MP

(1) Renewing Respect
The following statement has been issued by Linda Smith, National Chair of Respect, and Salma Yaqoob, National Vice-Chair of Respect.

"Respect was founded to bring together people from divergent political backgrounds in a common struggle for peace, equality and justice.
"It is now clear, however, that there is a fundamental and irretrievable breakdown in trust and relations between the SWP leadership and other parts of Respect.
"There can be no confidence in the legitimacy of the forthcoming Respect conference. The entire democratic process in Respect has been corrupted. If the conference goes ahead it will do no more than confirm that the SWP leadership is hijacking Respect for its own factional purposes. We will not be attending it.
"This breakdown in relations has occurred because the SWP leadership arrogantly refuses to countenance any situation in which they are not dominant and do not exercise control. They are determined to put the interests of the SWP above that of Respect.
"The sectarianism and 'control freak' methods of the SWP have led us to a situation where Respect is irretrievably split. The SWP leadership has supported the breakaway of four councillors from the Respect group in Tower Hamlets, who then went into coalition talks with the Liberal Democrats.
"We have no intention of giving up the struggle for a pluralistic, democratic and broad left wing movement. We will therefore be holding a Respect Renewal conference to discuss the future for progressive politics in Britain today. We are confident that this conference will attract a broad range of support from those who are interested in discussing how we can work together in pursuit of common objectives.
"This renewal conference will take place in London on Saturday 17 November, and we urge as many people as possible to attend it.
"Respect, in its current form, cannot continue. But it is in the interests of all us, including those in the wider left and anti-war movements, that this division is carried out in the most amicable manner possible - one that resolves any legal or
organisational questions through negotiation.
"Two meetings have taken place between us and the SWP Central Committee, in the presence of an independent chair respected by both sides. The independent chair confirmed to both groups that there was agreement that the relationship had come to an end, and that what we were discussing were proposals for an amicable resolution of any outstanding organisational questions. Just days later, the SWP backed the split in the Respect group on Tower Hamlets council and walked out of further negotiations.
"We remain committed to finding a negotiated solution to these issues. And we understand that the independent person is willing to continue their efforts to bring the two sides together. We urge the SWP to seek to resolve outstanding legal and organisational questions through further negotiations, in the hope that these matters will not have to be resolved elsewhere."

So far, so jolly comradely don't you think?

(2) An invitation to the Respect Renewal Conference called by Linda Smith, Salma Yaqoob and 17 other National Council members

"We are inviting you to attend the Respect Renewal conference.
"It will take place on Saturday 17 November, at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, from 11am to 5pm.
"Speakers include George Galloway MP, Linda Smith, Cllr Salma Yaqoob, Ken Loach. There will be plenty of time for debate.
"It will be an opportunity for all Respect members and others who want to continue the process of building a vibrant, radical, left alternative to New Labour to come together and discuss how to do this following the recent debilitating divisions that have split Respect.
"It will be an opportunity to reflect on the mistaken methods and lack of political vision that have led to the split in Respect and to learn lessons on how to work together and with others in the future.
"We remain committed to the radical policies which have been the cornerstone of Respect since its inception. Our organisational model is based on plurality, democracy and transparency.
"For us, the acronym RESPECT Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community and Trade Unions remains as valid today as it did at our launch in 2004.
"We want to build Respect but we also want to work together with all others who share a vision of a better, more equitable society, to create a broader, united party to represent the interests of all working-class people.
"We want to reach out to all those in the anti-war movement who still need a voice for peace and against imperialism.
"We want to reach out to all those concerned about climate change and the destruction of the environment.
"We want to reach out to all those in the trade unions who feel betrayed by New Labour under Brown as under Blair.
"We want to reach out to all those in the black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities who suffer racism and Islamophobia.
"We want to reach out to all those who want to fight against discrimination, whether or the grounds of religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.
"We want to reach out to the dispossessed, the asylum seeker, the migrant worker and to all who defend them.
"If you want to reach out with us, come along and join in our discussion."

There will be no need for a deep and wide investigation to discover who has launched this ice pick at Trotsky's cortex this time. There is a signed confession:

The Respect Renewal conference is called by the following Respect
National Council members:

Linda Smith National Chair - Salma Yaqoob National Vice-Chair -
Mobeen Azhar - Ayesha Bajwa - Victoria Brittain - Rita Carter -
Ger Francis - George Galloway MP - Jerry Hicks - John Lister -
Ken Loach - Abdul Khalik - Abdurahman Jafar - Abjol Miah - Bernie
Parkes - Yvonne Ridley - Clive Searle - Alan Thornett - Nick Wrack

If you would like to attend to our conference, or would like to know
more about us, please get in touch. e-mail:, Website:

Uncle George's official website is right here

Bad Science: Object Lesson in Objecting to Dreck

Dr Ben Goldacre has followed up his blog debunking of Nadine Dorries' unholy sanctimoniousness in today's Minority Retort which is carried in remix-edit by the Guardian here

Also in Guardian Science that marathon mouse is duracell cool.

Guido's Caption Competition: Warren is a Wazzock

Just noticed Guido's Caption CompetitionHERE and came up with a short story.

Cleggy: So, Warren, you say you were once a fire fighter?

Bradley: Well Nick, I still am. We've not been punching our weight and we've not put a foot right since we've been ruining running Liverpool.

Cleggy: When I tried to destroy Munich in a fire storm back in '83 the thing spread to two greenhouses Wazzer and then it petered out.

Bradley: Oh Nick - such a drama queen. Believe me the way to destroy a city is not to set it on fire ... try electing a pompous, arrogant, incompetent Lib Dem council.

Cleggy: Right Wazzock, I'll stand well back and watch the Capital of Culture 08 cock up from afar then. Well done. You certainly have destroyed a city. Without striking a match.

But is there a bit of a pattern emerging? Is Bradley making a habit of appearing with ill-fated Lib Dem leadership material and a police escort?

Ming Campbell and Warren Bradley helped police with their enquiries over Liverpool's economic miracle. "In a hole? Keep digging!" said Warren. Story.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Libdemologists: Boys! Boys! Play Nice! Play Nice!

Norfolk Blogger is jumping into a well known trap. In a transparently negative political attack he is taking great lumps out of Chris Huhne for what? For a somehow completely different and, in Huhne's case, culpable negative political attack. That's on Clegg.

In a contest between chalk and chalk or cheese and cheese there has to be some attempt at differentiation. But in fact Clegg is the Libertarian Tory who is willing to add to his police record, which he began at a tender age remember. And Huhne is the other Libertarian Tory who is willing to nuance and indeed cloak his continued support for a nuclear deterrent.

The one selling himself as outward looking and modern (i.e. will sell soul for power). The other traditional yet modern (i.e. will shave beards and hide sandals for a new level of respectability, er, and power if that's OK with you chaps, yes alright will sell soul too).

To paraphrase Guido neither Clegg nor Huhne has a dog in these fights. And iD cards (which I oppose in general, and very strongly if compulsory) are not planned to be compulsory. So when does Cleggy's civil disobedience kick in?

2019? By which time the argument will have moved on a good deal I'll be bound. As the one on CCTV did. And Trident? Luke Akehurst and Tom Watson must be quaking at Huhne's opposition.

I remember the contest between Hughes and Opik for President. Opik said something about a previous life selling soap powder and finding avoiding negativity and talking up your own product was the best way - clearly the party elected the one that allowed the attack politics!

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Manchester where all the rascals do is launch spurious attacks and promote fear and misery. Hat tip: Sadie.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Disingenuity Report: Nadine Dorries Has Lost Plot

Unity has provided a clinical appraisal of Nadine Dorries MP's minority report and blog statement (sorry still no direct permalinks). These included completely unfounded allegations about her parliamentary colleagues and a respected and amusing scientific journalist Dr Ben Goodacre. And they also included a lot of other nonsense about the science.

Sadly Nadine has, purely by coincidence and not because of a storm of awkward comment, decided to turn her blog into a news muse page. No further comments on anything any more. Picture by Robin Millar: Nadine D wins Tim M in in the Conservative Home Bloggers' Awards raffle, 23 May 2007.

NEWSFLASH 09:11, 2/11: Some well wishers have provided Nadine Dorries with a strife free feedback facility with proper permalinks and all that other new-fangled interwebbery taken care of.

Alex Deane: Dale's Aussie Monkey

Landslides may follow as Howard's man Tory (Liberal) Health Minister:

- Tony Abbott publicly abused a dying man
- Tony Abbott turned up half an hour late to his own televised debate
- Tony Abbott audibly swore at his debate opponent
- Tony Abbott showed off red boxers and chest rug


Slough Comp: Set to Prove Charitable Purpose?

Kids in Slough need education reports Westmonster. Ideal chance for Slough Comp to prove its charitable purpose I'd have thought? Picture shows an ever grateful Old Boy back to reap what he once sowed.

Old Dale and Dorries: They're ODD Tory Blaggers

Says Tim in this post on Nadine's latest little cock up. (In the style of Iain Dale)

Tories In Turmoil: Melt Down Over Iffy Land Sale

Apparently the Tories have been in Turmoil in Trafford these last three weeks. Right under our noses. Fair Deal Phil has noticed what is going on spitting distance away from me and blogged about it.

Dear Susan Williams sacked two Exec Members more than two weeks ago. Because they wouldn't let her get her own way over a land sale. They say the price is THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION under the market value, diddling the people. Last night she officially lost a third Exec member and his letter of resignation from 16th October has found its way - warts and all - into the pages of the local paper (who had reported the resignation on the 17th).

As well as suggesting her style in working with the Executive was unsatisfactory Councillor John Lamb suggested she was railroading through a pet plan on the "New Town Hall" project in which she has already been in deep water.

Fair Deal Phil was also first to the news on the last particularly shining example of why Ms Williams has already more than exceeded the level of her competence and MUST NOT be even considered by the people of Bolton West as their MP.

It was great news and I might as well repeat that story and the trimmings that went with it:

Better than the BBC, bloggers these days. Dr Pauleen Lane CBE, former Labour leader of Trafford Council and a Mayor - made to drive herself and her baby around while the official car carried the mayoral chain - has won £7,000 for her charity and cost stubborn and stupid Tory Leader Cllr Susan Williams some £200,000 from her budget in an arrogant insistence on dragging a mother and child through the courts.

Mrs Williams, herself famously mother of a young child when she stood elsewhere in 2001 and when the Tories took control through boundary changes in 2004, has surely lost any chance she had of unseating supermum the Rt Hon Ruth Kelly in Bolton.

Her travails also including a thankfully failed attempt to have the much-loved Town Hall demolished, slashes to the budget for the Mersey Valley Wardens Service, and - can this be right? - opposition to more Trams to Oldham and Rochdale, and towards Stockport and Tameside as well as being extended in Manchester. Lib Dem Stockport also voted against. Trafford look meaner. THEY ALREADY HAVE THEIR TRAM.

Rather Laugh Out Loud hilariously Susan is an Associate at Millar Consulting, Transforming Local Government. Apparently:

She brings unparalleled, up-to-date knowledge of Metropolitan Councils to the team, and managing the issues they face.

So that's alright then. These multiple cases of disgracing rather than transforming local government must just be a chance pattern of completely isolated incidents.

Cllr Salmon (Salford, Labour) biked, Cllr Fildes (Williams, Trafford, Tory) walked ran and Cllr Hackett (Manchester, Labour) swam in the triathlon relay. Presumably Salmon was fed up of the water?

CORRECTION: Pauleen was Group Leader but not Council Leader I think. This was probably all about Susan trying to be "top dog" and nothing to do with good sense. Pauleen offered to take £5,000 for her charity at the outset. Susan blamed Pauleen for the expense that Susan ran up trying to get her own way. You couldn't make it up.

Luke Akehurst: Graciously Blesses Protests, But Wrong

Luke Claims that: a state visit does not imply endorsement. He's wrong of course. Swallowing some trading and strategic contact with a geopolitically important tyrant is a stretch anyway. We should be weaning ourselves off oil and the world off arms not locking in another generation.

These Saudi despots have not earned any breaks and giving them a state visit - even fanfared with Darth Vader's Imperial March - has been not only disgraceful but also unnecessary.

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: On the left the view from the dark side. While the BBC Royal Correspondent missed it there was no fooling the boys in the band.

Barnett Formula: Choose choice? Embrace difference

Much of the hostility to the settlement for Scotland under the Barnett Forumla (excellent wiki), which is the fulcrum for Tory dis-unionism rests on the bare figures by country reported by many bloggers since Cameron lifted his own kilt and mooned Scotland. Skipper for example.

But unpacking the England total we find London, from whence much criticism emanates, gets the same sort of per capita figure as Scotland. And look at tax take vs spend we also find Scotland on the money.

Costs are quite different of course. Where things are close together - unless to the point of congestion - it quite simply costs less to deliver many services. Trunk roads and passenger transport being the most obvious examples.

The other distortion here - also seen in coverage of so-called postcode lotteries - is that devolving budgets and choice means creating difference.

If you want to pick up the stick of local delegation you will find choice at one end and difference at the other. You cannot pick up one without the other.

Universal high quality services with little local difference would in fact prove easier to explain as being fair than a swings and roundabouts choice fest.

Back Universal days the complaint, remember?, was of dirigism from centriste Stalinists and of "one size fits all". Choose choice? Embrace difference.

Saints and Sinners: UK Con Air Travel Exposed

Today is All Saints Day. Clearly yesterday being Halloween was a perfect day for communing with the spirits and observing ghostly traces of poltegeists and strange flying objects. Divining for Dave-id's paranormal vibes Unity finds plenty flitting about on the dark side.

Sums buried like bad news declared fully and openly: one third of a million pounds of internal travel are strangely in a different order of magnitude upwards, for short haul, than those for long haul. Some of which have not even broken the £1,000 barrier apparently.

Could this be because the recorded short haul journeys are paid for by UK interest who are permissible donors? Whereas most of the long haul ones are from Flying Lion - NOT a permissible donor or lender - and might well be clawed back when PPERA is properly interpreted. So best to downplay the cost and declare only 3% of the commercial equivalent?

The exception for non-UK donors paying reasonable travel costs for visits to their sites is clearly not intended as Carte Bleu for extravagant jet-setting.

Lib-Con Guff: Recycling, Swimming and Family Values

London Young Labour are pleased that Gordon backed down on a potential Diary Clash. The Climate Change Meeting in London tonight (7pm, Camden Town Hall) reported by Omar Salem will feature a run down of Lib Con hot air:

The Lib Dem/Tory council recently rolled-out recycling to some of Hampstead's poshest streets on the same day as cutting recycling on estates across the borough!

Which rather reminds me of Stockport's similarly afflicted council shutting a popular swimming baths in Labour-supporting Reddish when they knew from an about-to-published-review that several in their heartland wards were in fact more deserving of this unwelcome accolade.

Omar also recently discovered a Tory U-turn on work-life balance - they're agin it - and points us at Wolves SW MP Rob Marris with a blow by blow account of Tory opposition to family life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Libdemologists: It Really Is a Two Horse Race

Just this once they're right: "It's a Two Horse race!

Meanwhile it looks like Iain has put his calendar forward a day instead of his clock back an hour. Here.
But Newsnight have run the Not the November 1 Election show already.

Should have put it forward two days! What little there is to be said, has been.

UPDATE: A furious Lib Dem spin doctor has been on saying: "How dare you say our candidates are 'chalk and chalk'? They are in fact 'cheese and cheese' if you please." Fair enough.

Shahid Malik MP: No Stranger to Heavy Handed Security

Jekyll and Hyde figure Shahid Malik (left) - Dulles airport desperado and government invited expert by turns - had a few clashes with heavy handed authority on his CV even before he became an MP reports Rupa Huq.

Iain Dale's Diary: All a Pathetic Yah Boo Hoax?

Iain Dale got a bit of a flea in his ear for appearing to suggest on tuesday that today would have been election day. Here. He also claimed that the Tory's ever so clever poster would be all over the regional newspapers and on poster vans and the like.

But has anyone seen an example in the wild? Or was this actually just (a) pathetic yah boo and (b) a hoax to boot? There is certainly no such advert in my regional evening paper.

I still think Dave-id's witty vision of a "one-legged Lithuanian lesbian" dance troupe having their Arts Council Grants cut would have been even more popular.

UPDATE: A 'letter from home' arrives, in young Dale's own hand-writing. Says he didn't get his days wrong. "Diddums" as He might say.

Aaaaaargh!: LOL Agrees with Prague Tory, Again

Dr Rupa Huq has a far ranging post, on the perils of Islamic-ness I suppose, right here. Much of it about an amusing (in a haram kind of way) post-Islamist spoof blog on Islamism translated into the day to day.

Most of the discussion however is about Rupa's introduction. This concerns Shahid Malik being searched at an airport (again) and his being shirty about that. The comments are divided.

And, what's this? Oh dear oh dear oh dear. For the second day in a row I find myself agreeing - in part - with the generally reliably wrong Prague Tory.

Yesterday I agreed with him over at Dale's. That MPs of all parties that voted against Communication Allowances should use them without accusations of hypocrisy. Repeal the law later if you want to. But in the meantime don't hobble yourself or punish your constituents by not using the money. That's what the ever-so-principled Dale suggests.

This time it is much more serious. But Prague Tory may be right on this too. I tend to think so. Shahid Malik seems to be throwing a bit of a "Don't you know who I am?" here. As if the feudal rules of the muffin queue in the mother of parliaments should extend to customs clearance. And as if our own practices in Britain - sponsored by his own government, and defended by Malik in previous roles - are so different from these he's experienced in the USA.

Saying "this sort of treatment isn't deserved by anyone" as Rupa does is one thing. Quite a respectable if somethingly flawed argument. Flawed particularly as I'm struggling to find any untoward treatment? Being searched at all? Bring treated roughly, or impolitely, or insulted, or delayed?

Being against any kind of profiling? Ditto, also has some respectable arguments. But saying "this shouldn't be happening to me, as I'm a minister"? Well that frankly is not a respectable argument.

There quickly follows:
"I'm a diplomat", "I'm a spy for the FBI", "I'm a millionaire", "I know that George Bush me", "American Express" and "I'm a VIP me".

And also:
"I said I'm a British minister you red neck thicko, not a Pakistani minister from a peasant background, or French or some other inferior species ... Don't you know who I am?" That special relationship deja vu. All over again. Remember that one?

Most of us that travel a fair bit have at least occasionally been searched at airports and the like. I know I have been. Though sadly not in the USA where the airport security I have seen has often been worse than woeful.

I did a long haul flight a few days after 11 September 2001 for example. Never have so many been searched so many times by so very many. Our plane was even diverted to an airport with extra security for TWO extra searches before the first major leg of the journey. That being done on an all off, all back on basis. Though even then some of the detail was hilariously, hysterically illogical. One for another day. But four or five bag searches and friskings on one journey.

But the major "indignity" came in Melbourne, Australia where airport security asked everyone whether they'd been in "non Metropolitan areas" i.e. not pavements. Those foolish enough to admit same had ALL our footwear, even the pavement only kind, sprayed in powerful agri chemicals.

Fortunately none of our socks were conspicuously holey that day or there might have been a diplomatic incident: "Justice for people who walk in fields within a fortnight before going to Oz!"

There may be an issue with profiling in the USA in this case. Though to be fair they also harrass and obstruct all kinds of groups ... like known peace activists and those crossing from Canada, especially Canucks, and so on.

But the argument: "I'm a minister", "I'm a diplomat", "I know George Bush/Tony Blair", "I'm rich as Croesus", "I'm on the square" etc well, please Shahid, these just don't wash and they shouldn't. Next you'll be wanting an exclusive billionaire's jet for all your trips, you flying lion you!

Prague Tory is thankfully back on form and utterly wrong about the "writetothem" study, in which Shahid Malik was not seen as an outstanding correspondent. This is known to be pretty much completely discredited as anecdotal, manipulable and seriously flawed by systemic failures.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Exclusive: And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda ...

Brenda: Well, that seemed to go quite well really, quite polite for a dictator, and he did not notice did he?
Jackie: Great idea Bren, I mean I thought it was bloody hilarious Bren Ma'am, can't keep this silly grin off my face
Kim: I'm hiding, because no-one at all knows who I am
Gordon: No Ma'am he simply did not have a clue! (Puts on Deep Voice) "I - am - your - father!" Ha ha ha.
Brenda: Hope some blogger doesn't mix up the timeline

And the band played ... what exactly?

You may be able to check on this BBC player or remind yourself at this YouTube clip or perhaps better still at this one. But I'd not go showing that nice King Abdullah this one in a hurry.

Flying Lion Unlimited: Rough Guide to Jetsetting

It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it. And Unity is doing a cracking job of looking under rocks and uncovering the the steaming whiffiness of nefarious Tory jet setters. On top of all that he's caught yet another Tory failing to declare donations. Lobster Blogster caught one at it earlier today, albeit in a different jet. How many more will there be?

Perhaps every last error and omission will be explained. But we are still left with Tory politicians gadding about in a billionaire's plaything - living the lifestyle of the rich and famous - including for photo opps in Darfur. They are proudly buying into feel good carbon off setting schemes and suggesting that cries of "hypocrisy!" are bad form. "Sniping about the details". But where is their "conspicuous consumption and hidden donations" off setting scheme?

Thanks to a comment from Tim J I have found my way round PPERA. To speed up the familiarisation for others, the hotlinks from the index seem to suggest it's not all online, but you can go to the nearest hotlink then use the page by page navigation at the bottom to progress.

Evan's link to the Electoral Commission interpretation is also working. The example given of an overseas donor who has a factory in an MP's constituency covering the cost of a trip to their HQ is quite different to the Ashcroft model. Which I think falls outside the intended purpose of this concession.

I plan to write to the Electoral Commission for clarification and suggesting revisions. If I manage that I'll report back. Though it's a full two years since my last still unanswered question: viz "Does the EC analyse patterns of election expenses returns to help police "unusual" (crooked?) practices?"

Footing the bill for all sorts of travel unrelated to their own location seems to be taking the piss really. Not what was intended. Tory "chancer" behaviour. Ashcroft/Flying Lion is giving campaign cash for Conservative-aggrandisement, the true costs are hugely disproportionate, and for my money - as they are not sponsoring trips to their own operations - they should not really be considered a permissable donor.

Nu Tories: Graphing All the Way to the Bank?

Conservative Home has an analysis (with pictures) of how Tory members are seeing things down the ages. Something like that.

Apparently SMUG is back. And utterly SMUG is the new SMUG. Excellent. Old School Policies are doing the trick. And having GOO lying like he means it are all popular with Darby, Joan, Tim and Nadine.

Meanwhile the same rank and file are 77% obsessed with Europe's perfidy.

LAUGHING GRAPHING NOTES: All images snatched from the M Saatchi waste bin at CH. And just in case you haven't noticed the 21 month crash is given the same space on the axis as the one month burn. Libdemtastic!

Dave-id: It's the Way You Tell 'Em Me Old China

Thank goodness Dave-id Cameron assured us early doors that he's a liberal conservative (though Wikipedia did think they spotted him reneging almost immediately), otherwise we would be very anxious indeed that he was in fact a uptight, jingoistic, disableist, homophobic, misogynist old school born-to-rule Tory Toff. Phew! Thanks to Sadie for that one, shining brightly among a cluster of bright twinklers. Mad Dorries and Toy Boy Tim! Are you sure?

UPDATE 16:11: Timbo has his boy Sam running round issuing categorical denials on the latter story. But DC's hilarious "one-legged lithuanian lesbian" arts council funding joke still stands. On its head probably.

Gerald Kaufman: Pursuing Justice for Yasmin Zalzala

Gerald Kaufman is pursuing Harriet Harman over Yasmin Zalzala Gate (various posts) in which she was dumped as Lib Dem candidate with party officers apparently deciding this on the basis of race, religion and gender.

Though these appalling Lib Dems said it was because of Yasmin's lack of collegial working. Well, yeah! Of course you will be really happy to work with unprincipled fools who are openly racist, sexist and religionist.

"Curly" is the only MP I know who pursues routine correspondence in this way. Generally the answer is that a reply has now been sent. So it works. Though it's not cheap.

Air Con: Do PPERA Schedule 7 Parts 5-7 Apply?

Evan Price, a Tory and a barrister who blogs his thoughts here, has kindly pointed me at Schedule 7 of PPERA which he says is the relevant one outside election periods. When it comes to "Value of Donations" this is not greatly different from the Schedule extract I published in my last post.

In Part I, 5 it appears to more or less repeat paras (1) to (5) of that extract. There is no para (6) which appeared to be like a mini Exec Summary reiterating the open market value point. In Part II, 6 and 7 it appears to underline the requirement for a donor to have permissible donor status, and to describe types of travel financing which constitute controlled donations.

Just now I cannot see anything here that (a) allows donations from offshore companies or (b) says travel donations needn't be declared at true market value.

At the time of writing I have not been able to get at the Electoral Commission guidance which Evan also pointed me at as the link was broken. Such guidance is of course only a quick gloss not chapter and verse anyway ...

Full Market Value: Claw Back from Con Air Tories?

The Electoral Commission website is hard work, but it does have this summary of what PPERA says on 'notional expenditure', that is where permissible donors provide premises, good and services at less than the full cost:

The PPERA specifies that 'notional expenditure' must also be treated as campaign expenditure (Legislation and Donations). Notional expenditure is incurred when a party receives benefits in kind, i.e. when someone else bears the costs that a party would otherwise have been liable for; for example, a party supporter might pay half the costs towards a party's advertising campaign. The amount paid by the supporter would be treated as notional expenditure and would be counted as campaign expenditure incurred by the party.

The nitty gritty of how such expenditures should be valued appears to be in section 53 of PPERA which I cannot find online just now. But the following is section 5 of schedule 16 of PPERA and has the title I'm looking for at least. Looks like it has the answers too. The emphasis in bold is mine:

Value of donations

5(1)The value of any donation falling within paragraph 2(1)(a) above (other than money) shall be taken to be the market value of the property in question.
(2)Where, however, paragraph 2(1)(a) above applies by virtue of paragraph 2(2) above, the value of the donation shall be taken to be the difference between
(a)the value of the money, or the market value of the property, in question, and
(b)the total value in monetary terms of the consideration provided by or on behalf of the candidate or his election agent.
(3)The value of any donation falling within paragraph 2(1)(b) above shall be taken to be the value of the money, or (as the case may be) the market value of the property, transferred as mentioned in paragraph 3(1) above; and accordingly any value in monetary terms of any benefit conferred on the person providing the sponsorship in question shall be disregarded.
(4)The value of any donation falling within paragraph 2(1)(d) or (e) above shall be taken to be the amount representing the difference between
(a)the total value in monetary terms of the consideration that would have had to be provided by or on behalf of the candidate or his election agent in respect of the loan or the provision of the property, services or facilities if
(i)the loan had been made, or
(ii)the property, services or facilities had been provided,
on commercial terms
, and
(b)the total value in monetary terms of the consideration (if any) actually so provided by or on behalf of the candidate or his election agent.
(5)Where a donation such as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (4) above confers an enduring benefit on the donee over a particular period, the value of the donation—
(a)shall be determined at the time when it is made, but
(b)shall be so determined by reference to the total benefit accruing to the donee over that period.
(6)In this paragraph “market value” in relation to any property, means the price which might reasonably be expected to be paid for the property on a sale in the open market.

Clearly, patently, I am no expert in these matters. But it does seem obvious to me that Ashcroft's donations of travel services in his jet are (a) not permissible as the company is offshore and this has not been travel on a trip to meet the donor; and (b) must be recorded in any case at FULL MARKET VALUE.

Again obviously, this is not the same as marginal cost or substitute or alternate cost. Full market value means "the price which might reasonably be expected to be paid for the property on a sale in the open market".

This is the amount that should have been recorded even if the donations had been from a permissible source and this is the amount which should now be clawed back from the Conservatives for each and every non permissible donation of air travel from Flying Lion. Not the pootling amounts actually recorded.

Presumably the same kind of Market Value assessment is required also in the register of members interests? Let's throw the book at the Tories for this, and at Ashcroft and Flying Lion in so far as they knew about this under reporting.

UPDATE: Dizzy is still spewing flames from his tale in a dark death spiral in comments here. Is anyone saying that the donor's actual cost of aviation fuel and wages and airport dues must be declared? These are just the tip of the iceberg running one of these things anyway. I'm certainly not saying that. The actual test as specified above is the open market value for the service actually received.

Let me provide a practical example for hard of thinking Tories everywhere. If someone buys the Conservatives 100 proper luxury commercial poster sites for political material and they are used for dog whistles and disgraceful lies and then it comes to registering the donation you cannot say:

"But we could have done this with flyposting/fliers/word of mouth/freesheet ads/pirate hoardings for one tenth of this cost so we'll register that amount instead".

Prize Devon Fudge: Buff Huhne is NOT a Unilateralist

Luke Akehurst suggests that Buff Huhne joined the SDP rather than sticking with Labour a lifetime ago because they were nuclear warheads. Therefore, suggests Luke, Mr Huhne may be a Libdemologist that is also an opportunist. Fancy that!

Then again he may not actually be a unilateralist at all. I'm certain he isn't. Huhne has not ruled out a different deterrent under the next Huhne government.

In fact on BBC News 24 in the early hours of 28 October 2007 this commenter caught Huhne calling for a continued deterrent, simply not launched from Trident submarines. The Observer published him at the same time calling for a "minimal deterrent" largely on cost grounds rather than principle.

Trident is famously awesomely expensive after all - far more so than other options. This is prize Devon fudge from this Lib Dem pretender. Hardly enough of a prize though to keep socialists and peaceniks in the Lib Dem tent. But enough perhaps to scare off the Tory horsies.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tomas Abyu: Knocks Four Minutes Plus Off Marathon Best

You may remember Tomas Abyu of Salford Harriers and the amazing eyes-off-the-ball which saw his 4th place and fastest UK time for seven years in the Great North Run completely missed by the MSM who covered Steve Maclaren jogging round in two hours instead.

Today in Dublin Tomas knocked four and a half minutes off his lifetime best time for the marathon with two hours ten minutes and 37 seconds gun to tape. The race was won by Aleksey Sokolov who smashed the course record with 2:09:07. Tomas was second, 30 seconds clear of a pack of world class runners and running near even pace throughout. 31 minutes for each 10k plus 6:37 for the last 2k. Metronomic.

I have been expecting this sort of breakthrough for a couple of years now. Tomas has run 2:15 three times over the last couple of years and doing it in London in 2006 he was set for 2:11/2:12 for most of the race.

I now repeat my suggestion of four weeks ago:

Preselecting Tomas for the Beijing marathon now, subject to fitness, and giving him enough financial support to discourage the old four half marathons in 29 days (three in 15 days) routine of Spring this year would be a cracking idea.

In a Championship context - and the Dublin race was similar - 2:10 is a highly competitive time. Tomas was not taken to the last Commonwealth Games though third in the rankings with three places available. The authorities have told me that his lack of a formal coaching contract and his unwillingness to miss races for squad talking shops has counted against him. That is frankly ridiculous.

He had a poor run in the European in Gothenburg, carrying an injury. But it is quite obvious that he knows how to prepare himself to race at the very highest level. Perhaps I can introduce him to Dr Ron Hill MBE (best 2:09:28, 1970, world best) for a little fine tuning?

Well done Tomas. This was brilliant running.

UPDATE: I'm told this run may not count as an Olympic qualifying time as the race is not a member of a consortium called AIMS. That too is ridiculous.

Dizzy/Guido on Con Air: Extraordinary Renditions

Remember that Flying Lion homework set by Professor Watson, who never asks a question when he doesn't know the answer? Here is a summary.

It is not like me to link to a Tory blogger twice in one day. But Dizzy really should be embarrassed by this post as he joins Guido in rising to playground taunts by Bob Piper and coming out to play.

As Bob Piper says Dizzy is a "fearless investigator of dodgy dealings in public life". So why is this embarrassing? That's because he seems to have got so mixed up on this Flying Lion business.

Dizzy claims the rules in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) state that MPs can accept donations from overseas-based people or organisations if "the purpose of the donation is to pay for the travel costs".

This OF COURSE means that if George Bush summons you to Washington - as he famously didn't do to George Osborne - he can pay for the fares. And if Alisher Creosotemanov wanted Dave in Tashkent to see his Memory Man trick he also can legitimately finance that travel.

What it does not mean - as far as I can see - is that some rich overseas entity or individual can regularly pay for general gadding about. That would be just like giving cash and to do that compliance with rules is required. Flying Lion do not seem to comply with those rules on "permissible donors and lenders".

Dizzy also cites PPERA saying the travel costs registered are to be calculated based on commercial rates.

Strangely enough this DOES NOT mean some minimised marginal cost, or the rate that would be charged first class on a scheduled airliner. It means the market rate for or the actual full cost of the journey. The Conservatives do not seem to have complied with those rules.

In the case of Victor Papa - Bravo Mike Sierra the true cost is estimated to be about 30 to 40 times as great as that of scheduled first class. And that's 30 to 40 times what the Tories (those who have bothered to register the gifts) have declared.

The combination of Flying Lion being overseas registered and not allowed to make donations or loans under PPERA - except perhaps to visit Ashcroft in Bermuda, Bahamas or wherever he is lurking - and the true price being 30 times what has been knowingly under-declared these past three or four years ...

This means the Tories may face not only red faces and a proper sleaze scandal but also a fair old claw back.

Clearly the sorts of figures Guido admitted, of £20,000 so far and £50,000 these last two electoral years start to get more interesting when:

(a) they are grossed up 30 to 40 times to reflect the true commercial value (meaning up to £2.8 million for those 18 months alone);
(b) carelessly omitted flights are added to the roster; and
(c) the donations are exposed as both impermissable and consistently and knowingly under declared.

Hopi Sen: Hearing a Tory Dog Whistle a Mile Off

Here's Hopi Sen sifting through liberal conservative Cameron's "population" policy for an idea that's worth a candle. Strangely enough it doesn't look like there's any there.

Facebook: Are You Now or Have You Ever Been ... in the Bourgeois, Fuddy Duddy, Illiberal, Middle of the Road?

The Conservative Home EXCLUSIVE on BBC "Reds", picked up by the Mail has got to be one of best adverts yet for a proper training for bloggers and journalists in statistics, logic and semantic differentiation.

With a sample of well under 20% of the BBC's Facebookers (obviously a self-selecting sub-group of funseekers) both C-Home and Mail draw all sorts of generalistic conclusions. Here's the basic breakdown:

BBC - 10,580
BBC liberals - 1,340
BBC moderates - 340
BBC conservatives - 120

Given that the great leader Dave-id Cameron describes himself as a "liberal" and indeed positions his party as not only economically liberal but also socially liberal what does this all mean?

Nothing much actually. Small c conservative (rather like big C) is a word absolutely loaded with negative connotations, particularly for younger cohorts likely to play out on Facebook.

How many people are going to click next to a word like "conservative"?:

  Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus - Cite This Source - Share This
Main Entry:  conservative
Part of Speech:  adjective
Definition:  moderate
Synonyms:  bourgeois, cautious, constant, controlled, conventional, die-hard, fearful, firm, fogyish*, fuddy-duddy*, guarded, hard hat*, hidebound, holding to, illiberal, inflexible, middle-of-the-road*, not extreme, obstinate, old guard*, old-line, orthodox, quiet, red-neck, right, right-wing, sober, stable, steady, timid, traditional, traditionalistic, unchangeable, unchanging, uncreative, undaring, unimaginative, unprogressive, white bread*
Antonyms:  incautious, left-wing, liberal, progressive, radical, revolutionary

Main Entry:  conservative
Part of Speech:  noun
Definition:  moderate
Synonyms:  Tory*, bitter-ender*, classicist, conserver, conventionalist, die-hard, fossil, hard hat*, middle-of-the-roader*, moderate, moderatist, obstructionist, old fogy, old guard*, old liner*, preserver, reactionary, red-neck, right, right-winger, rightist, silk-stocking*, standpat, stick-in-the-mud*, traditionalist, unprogressive
Antonyms:  left-winger, liberal, radical

Now of course "liberal" can be seen as disparaging too - in political circles at least - but Thesaurus-wise it ain't bad at all:

Main Entry:  liberal
Part of Speech:  adjective 1
Definition:  progressive
Synonyms:  advanced, avant-garde, big, broad, broad-minded, catholic, detached, disinterested, dispassionate, enlightened, flexible, free, general, high-minded, humanistic, humanitarian, impartial, indulgent, inexact, interested, latitudinarian, left, lenient, libertarian, loose, magnanimous, not close, not literal, not strict, permissive, pink, radical, rational, reasonable, receiving, receptive, reformist, tolerant, unbiased, unbigoted, unconventional, understanding, unorthodox, unprejudiced
Antonyms:  conservative

Main Entry:  liberal
Part of Speech:  adjective 2
Definition:  giving
Synonyms:  Santa Claus, altruistic, beneficent, benevolent, big, bighearted*, bounteous, bountiful, casual, charitable, eleemosynary, exuberant, free, generous, good Joe, handsome, kind, lavish, loose, munificent, open-handed, open-hearted, philanthropic, prince, prodigal, profuse, soft touch, softie, unselfish, unsparing, unstinging
Antonyms:  strict

Main Entry:  liberal
Part of Speech:  adjective 3
Definition:  abundant
Synonyms:  ample, aplenty, bounteous, bountiful, copious, galore, generous, handsome, lavish, munificent, no end, plentiful, plenty, profuse, rich, stink with
Antonyms:  conservative
Source:  Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
Copyright © 2007 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

For the UK-wide Facebook population the liberal to conservative ratio is we're told just 2.5 to 1. Four times less liberal than those on the BBC network claim Conservative Home:

UK - 6,407,580
UK liberals - 545,240
UK moderates - 251,320
UK conservatives - 216,660

Narrowing it down to the London network where most BBC employees reside, the ratio is still just nigh of 3 to 1 at 147,340 to 51,760.

Labour of Love have discovered the following from this analysis:

1. In a forced choice and with the terms 'socialist' 'communist' 'neocon' 'fascist' and even 'libertarian' not available, never mind any creative combination of terms, such as 'liberal conservative' two to three times as many people in the broad population pick 'liberal' as 'conservative'.

2. In the same forced choice test one sample group of young media professionals showed themselves to be about 25% more likely to positively select one of these three key terms - liberal, moderate or conservative - and three times as likely to mark themselves as 'liberal'.

3. This result might well be replicated in other groups of young media professionals and very likely other groups where vocation and interest come ahead of money-grubbing in career choice. We don't know yet, Conservative Home did not test that.

Labour of Love speculate thusly:

4. Groups of city boys, accountants, salesmen, computer programmers etc etc may well show an opposite predeliction associating the term 'conservative' either with a political party or with caution, accumulation of wealth, selfishness etc.

5. While "Tory" is a good handle for Labour's main national opponents in England, and they don't like it, "Conservative" seems to be a pretty good dog whistle also.

6. The Conservative Party should continue to try their attempts to coin portmanteau expressions that take the sting out of this highly negative term but also seek alternatives such as "Christian Democrat", "National Party" even "Liberal Party" (cf John Howard). Sadly "Unionist Party" no longer rings true.

PHOTO CREDITS: Top from Conservative Home, Road sign from Jasper Fforde Ffan Club, who sadly omitted "Conservatively".