Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's An Education: Academy, Grammar, (E)Quality

My daughter (15) is off this evening to her first grown up gig on her own. Calvin Harris at the Academy 1 as it goes. Her first gig, also out of parental sight, was at the MEN Arena when she was about nine or ten. With her then best friend. They had won a televised day on the road with the Stars of Pop Idols show. The VT is safely stashed away for future embarrassment.

The pair are still best friends. Ten years after meeting. Though they now go to different schools in the mix and match mess of faith, independent, single-sex, community and state selective schools we have in the area.

Manchester, along with other big post-industrial cities, has fast improving schools. But also a history of being pretty low in exam league tables. If statistics existed across the splintered system, including the independents and our children in state Grammar Schools in neighbouring boroughs' like Graham Brady's Trafford (boosting their results), we'd be looking far better.

But never mind just combining statistics in some paper exercise. How about combining all the students into lightly streamed community schools. School runs down. Time saved. Pollution reduced. Accidents averted. No panic spending to pay fees for mediocre independents or crappy crammers.

What's more it would be fair and just as effective. The very best teachers would be available to those in need of their talents and inspiration of all abilities.

Don't get me wrong the belated introduction of Tomlinson reforms is very welcome. But why have we tolerated these great commutes, this tremendous inequality and often rich-get-richer funding mechanisms?

Every School A Good School! Quality First. Choice within not between equally resourced schools. The market may get there in the end. But why wait?

Nadine Dorries MP: Blogs On ACID Don't Ya Know

Nadine Dorries MP has started a post on her blog about comforting other people who have lost loved ones. After a few short clauses describing a troubled empathy she has switched to "me me me". Coming out as a divorcee (it's about time Nads) and explaining - with graphic insults - how other women feel the need to cling to their distinctly sub-standard husbands when she is about as a single woman. It's here or thereabouts.

Nad's blog is technically absolutely hopeless. It has no permalinks. Navigation in the archive is poor despite the strange device of a clickable calendar. It has no comments at the moment. But when it did there was no telling whether a comment was registered. Nadine has apparently been bleating on other people's blogs about getting 40 repeats of the same comment. That Nads is because your blog was so useless technically.

The link incidentally is Tim Ireland defending himself against smears which seem to have spread from the Tory Boy Bloggers to the Tory Girls. Leave them Tim, they're not worth it.

I digress. The whole thing is "On ACID", sorry "On ACIDity" whose own clients page (above) is a right royal mess in many common browsers. I've tested it in Firefox, Safari, Navigator. As a Maccie I don't use MS Internet Explorer as they've stopped upgrading it. Ms Dorries' Constituency Site has also featured some frights (right) though it looks as if she's slipped right over the edge.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cramming for Finals: Respect-SWP Schism Crib Sheet

Those cramming for their finals in Respect-SWP Schism 2007 may care to read this post and comments. But as I've read it, you don't have to. Liam is not a supporter of the SWP in this matter.

UPDATE 08:05 Weds: Miles has donned rose-tinted spectacles. He reckons Peace Has Broken Out.

Nadine Dorries: Sisterly Smear Test for Labour Women

ADMIN NOTICE: Nadine Dorries MP is a fascinating subject it seems for some secretive LOL readers. Please do keep the very interesting information coming in comments or to Remember I can only print it if it's (a) true and (b) proveable.

The Rhetorically Speaking blog meanwhile catches her spinning a complete load of toss to the Daily Mail.

No serious paper with serious standards and serious journalists would print it. It is not true and it is not proveable after all. It is just a dirty rotten smear. Here is the Mail Story as they don't give a monkeys about truth or fairness. Nads has claimed that prospective candidates receiving grants from an organisation called Emily's List have been somehow dishonest or corrupt or illegal or something (it's a smear - detail is sketchy) in not declaring these.

Actually Nadine Dorries has either been extremely remiss on the matter of engaging her brain, or she is lying through her teeth being a little disingenuous. It would have to be the latter as here (scroll down to Declared Entries) she explains how the limit for any declaration is 1% of salary, or £590 at today's prices. Though now I think it might actually be £1,000.

The website for Emily's List which kindly provided the above picture has an explanation of their purpose and list of total donations for each General Election together with the number of recipients involved. It is unlikely that any grant came close to 1% of salary, still less £1,000. Typically £150 - £250 per grant.

What is more the grants are to help with GETTING SELECTED and may well be completely outwith the scope of any declaration regime anyway. It really is very hard to think of a thinner, meaner, more dishonest story than this one from Nadine Dorries.

The requirements for the scheme are to:

fulfil Labour Party criteria; support the programme and values of the Party and be pro-choice.

Obviously as she keeps reassuring us Nadine is not anti-abortion or pro-life. That makes her pro-choice then? But it strikes LOL that this fuss and this silly smear is all about that criterion. But it must be said that if you don't have goo for brains you would acknowledge that £150-£250 is not about to change anyone's mind on this particular issue.

Meaning that the story that Dorries fed the Mail and that they fed their readers was and is ... absolute bollocks.

Rhetorically Speaking also links to the regulations on "one off" benefits with grants of ten year's vintage NOT in the reckoning.

While we're on the subject of registering interest Nads mentions a declared trip to Wimbledon for the Tennis from Barclays Bank with her then husband, said to be worth £600. Can't see that ever declared in the RMI though.

Nads also explains elsewhere on her site that she is a DAILY COMMUTER (cost £12,000 annually) from Woburn to Westminster and back. This does set alarm bells ringing over her "Cost Of Staying Away From Main Home" allowance of £21,634. Perhaps someone can explain to me just how that one works?

The only things in her declaration are two houses. One in Gloucestershire - producing an income - and one on the coast in South Africa - benefit unspecified. Oh and a three day most-expenses-paid trip to Israel.

Nads claims that she has had no donations whatsoever. Though her Constituency Association does raise money and accept contributions. And then presumably from time to time it passes some cash to Ms Dorries for campaigns?

I've read somewhere that her whacko websites used to be funded from her expenses. This time however, though her parliamentary reports are mentioned, her websites are not. Probably just as well Nads. Probably just as well.

Guido's Faustian Bargain: MP Trades Key Vote for Ermine

As other leading Tory boy blaggers slump towards irrelevance and sell out Guido has pulled himself together in a seasonal return to form. What a guy!

At this link he relays an anecdote. It's from a Martin Bell speech at Wolverhampton University.

MB claims he once overheard an MP in the house trading their vote for a peerage.

Not a Faustian bargain that could be enforced though is it? Would you really rely on a lowly whip to deliver an undeserved elevation? This is perhaps just some "hilarious banter". Staged for MB?

But whatever, LOL predict some scrabbling around by Guido and the adherents of his strange cult over the coming weeks and months to "out" any and all unearnt ermine. Naturally covering all parliaments since 1605. All of them I'd say.

ASIDE: The man in a white suit Martin Bell was a serial refusenik on NUJ membership. Who'd have thought it?

BBC Pinkos: There's Twenty Nine New Bills, Count 'Em

Meanwhile the pinkos at the BBC list the 29 bills re-announced in a speech about nothing at all right here. Hat tip and Straw's engineered reverse: Westmonster.
UPDATE 13:56: The BBC Comments page on this seems to have fallen over. 14:10: Back.

Busy Doing Nothing: Terrible Tory Twolls Rattle Rabidly

Iain Dale didn't have anything to say this morning but he said it anyway here. Ironically it is on the theme of not having anything to say. Gordon Brown has of course trailed today's speech in reasonable detail allowing our dear queen to speak for just five minutes or so in what is demonstrably all pageant - particularly the fawning Straw - and limited policy.

Seems to me that Brenda will wish to be on her feet less and less as the years pass. This is the way it will be from now on. And if Charles doesn't abdicate or pre-decease her he'd do well to stick to five minutes too. Gordon will take part in a detailed debate this afternoon.

Moderation in everything at Iain's really is getting in the way. I'm not saying he should abandon it. That would be ill-advised given the stuff that he's let through. But he abandoned ship after 90 minutes with just eight publishable comments. And then there is nothing new for 2.5 hours. And all on the subject of "nothing new here"!

Steady as she goes is not such a bad thing from my point of view. Newness for the sake of it and initiative-itis was often highly alarming under the hyper-active Blair. I'm glad to see the back of it myself. Nice to see the lonesome and penniless Blunkett getting some pin money if Strapworld is right and Yorkshire's favourite Sun ... columnist gets to mind the yellow school buses programme.

And what a tremendous blog Strapworld maintains. Do go and take in its splendour. All that since August too.

Lovely to see Patrick (who owns to having no blog at all) and Fidothedog, here riffing delightfully on bricks in faces, offering their graceless personal attacks. With former Islington Tory now Lewes Gingavitist Newmania - in his own words "feeble" - adding more.

Digging at Gordon's lack of sight in one eye (Fido), calling him sweaty and identifying him by race and ethnicity (New), and naturally some Goveian psycho babble (Pat).

Almost in one-legged Lithuanian lesbian territory. But as yet not one of these Tory devils has come up with a Gay Gordons line. I suppose that's something. Give it time, give it time.

This is the face of the modern, cuddly new Tory Party?

UPDATE 18:15: Five hours later. Still no more comments and no more posts.

UPDATE Wed 18:37: The predicted Gay Gordon comment came at 15:30 or thereabouts but was only posted with 30 or 40 other comments later yesterday evening. At that point Iain also told his readers that he had been personally struggling all day with funeral arrangements for his Godmother, and also probate and grasping solicitors.

Iain has visited here and asked if I'm "plain stupid" and said I have a "lack of human compassion" for posting this response to his post. In fact I have not been taking him to task much over the last couple of weeks. But I thought he was back in business.

I have replied in comments apologising for any offence, empathising completely with his loss and congratulating him on his heartfelt eulogy. But at the same time wondering why he didn't keep us informed. And also why, if he couldn't handle a response such as the above without insulting and smearing people, he had posted the provocation in the first place.

Smears and crass insults are the currency of his commenters 365 days a year, and he often uses the same formulas. But nonetheless in pointing that out I had no intention whatsoever of hurting Iain and once again I apologise publically for that.

MP Expenses: Postscript, Nadine Dorries Pinching Herself

INTERESTING BEDFELLOWS: Harry Barnes' rather forward suggestions are met with a flutter of come hither eyelids by Nadine Dorries (see post titled I Wish ...).

Having worried at some Tories' dolling themselves up activities (right) in today's post, she says she has to pinch herself and marvel that she is there in the Houses of Parliament at all (post title Mr Darcy).

You're not alone in that one Nadine!

Westmonster: Live Blogging the Queen's Speech

Westmonster Sadie is live blogging the Queen's Speech so we don't have to. Refresh frequently for wit and wisdom. 11:44: Or just look at your watch and shout: "Eight Minutes? We was robbed!" (This is on standardised Westmonster mean time now).

MPs Expenses: 77% People of Buxton Say "Good Value"

There is an amusing juxtaposition over at Greater Manchester Fabians. Graham rightly draws attention to the feeding frenzy on MPs' expenses previously dismissed in advance on this blog.

The Buxton Advertiser are having a right royal go at Tom Levitt MP who was the eighth highest claimant. There are all sorts of potential reasons why he might be at the higher end.

Tom represents High Peak, a mostly very rural and thinly spread constituency
There is a continuum with little practical difference between the 8th claimant and the 80th or even the 330th
There are accountancy foibles for example the bean counting of unused stocks of envelopes
The largest item in the claim by far is staff and the cost of this depends on for example seniority on pay scales, level of unfilled vacancies, actual level of casework support needed

The opposition PPCs are naturally immature and opportunist, and predictably so in their comments to the Advertiser:

Stephen Sharp, Lib Dem PPC, said: "I am the first to accept that democracy doesn't come cheap, but I really would like to know how anyone can justify these figures from public money.
"Perhaps if Mr Levitt represented the electorate of the High Peak instead of being a Westminster 'yes man' he might find his requirement to write back to people grossly diminished," said Mr Sharp. "I doubt I am on my own in assuming that nearly all his postbag is not congratulating him on the excellent service he does for the High Peak.

Yes, Stephen Sharp, you snide wassock you are very much on your own there matey. But what about the Tory?

Andrew Bingham, Conservative PPC, said: "There is no escaping £168,000 is an awful lot of money when people in High Peak look at what they take home and what they spend in a year. It is a figure that doesn't bear much relation to reality.
"People will judge whether they are getting good value for money from their member of parliament at the next general election and that's the judgement they will make," said Mr Bingham.
"It is a shame Mr Brown was too frightened to give us that chance."

No, Mr Bingham, it is a shame that Tories were so "frit" at the prospect of an election that they rolled out a series of dog whistles like this one, added a soupcon of ridiculous mendacious memory man act, and topped it all off with a sprig of big bad money lies.

Clearly there are a few High Peak people taking home parliamentary caseworker pay as a result of the employment created in the MPs office! And overall it is interesting that for the moment at least the Good People of Buxton are voting 77:23 IN FAVOUR of the proposition that "MPs ARE GOOD VALUE".

Leaving aside the occasional maverick loner, MPs tend to have three or four underpaid and overworked staff. And the cost of supporting their activity is far lower than the overhead for a solicitor or an accountancy fee earner, say five years qualified, actually paid about half an MPs salary or £30,000 but charged out at SIX TO TWELVE TIMES their actual rate.

Of course there is an element of strategic management and profits to account for in those cases. But pro rata MPs administration would come in at one third to two thirds of a million pounds if they were supported and housed at the level and at the rates of pay of a solicitor or accountant in a medium sized practice.

That amusing juxtaposition? Having slammed the press for their cynicism and unreasonable coverage Graham cannot resist revealling that ... party-for-party Lib Dem MPs are on average the most expensive.

Monday, November 05, 2007

RESPECT Coalition: Delivering Victory for Conservatives

Karen Reissmann incidentally is a member of the SWP and of Respect. While anyone sacked essentially for being a Trade Unionist deserves reinstatement and solidarity the likes of this crew can make that difficult.

On 26 October Respect took 102 votes (6.5%) in a local government by-election in Harlow. This put them third, some 600 votes off the pace, claiming to be the cause of a Conservative win over Labour by 15 votes.

Apparently this is "putting down roots in Harlow". And there's more. Helping a Tory win a seat Labour have held for 40 years is it seems a great victory for "Respect Equality Socialism Peace Environment Community & Trade Unionism".

Mental Health Managers: Madness From Start to Finish

When we pay a good whack to NHS management we have a right to expect that they (a) have a bit of nous and (b) have GCSE level or better Industrial Relations. Today the bizarre case of Karen Reissmann (right) and the Mental Health Trust she works for, based just 200 yards from the House of Love in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, took a new twist.

First, they PROMOTED her. She is a good nurse after all, with around 25 years experience.
Second, they SUSPENDED her on full pay.
Bizarrely these two events were ON THE SAME DAY.

And then Third, today, following a second three day disciplinary hearing they have SACKED her for "gross misconduct".

The offence? Speaking out locally - as a senior Unison activist - about the possible detrimental effects of specific reorganisation, and of cuts and marketisation in general, on her patients and her members.

The cure? Management suspended Karen. This in effect sent her out and about, at public expense, on a speaking tour on the matters that concerned her. Garnering great media interest. Almost 1000 hits on Google.

This really is a "boss" way of silencing or containing a "whistle blower"! There have been 14 days of strikes to date. A further strike is due to start on Thursday and continue until reinstatement.

Sheila Foley, Chief Executive told the Manchester evening News:

"All the way through this matter we have followed the correct processes. I have listened to all the evidence for six days and I have weighed up that evidence and made my decision.
"I do believe this is the right decision to take and is being taken in the best interest of the Trust and the patients we care for. Dismissal is not a decision taken lightly, is very rare and only taken when there are very serious concerns."

The Mental Health Trust Ms Foley commands – which is ranked as one of the worst in Britain, and is currently £3 million in debt – has also come in for criticism from relatives of William Scott (right with daughter Emma), a patient who died after disruption to his care.

Clearly there will be an appeal and very likely an Industrial Tribunal. Clearly Karen Reissmann will lose and win these respectively. Clearly bosses will pay any fines and exemplary damages and consider it a good bargain. Just as bosses at local college Mancat did after losing an IT on the "Mancat Five".

Madness from start to finish. Meanwhile a health whistle blower who does deserve immediate dismissal, after claiming a popular hospital was threatened with closure, is still at large in Westminster and South Manchester.

Eddie Mair: Rather Likes the Sound of his Own Voice?

Eddie Mair (or 'Mare, above) of BBC Radio Four has it seems been mouthing off about user created or user involving content. Including a big collective dig at bloggers. He doesn't much like it. Not on first reading. If you want my opinion. You don't? Never mind, here it is anyway.

Too much competition for Mair's meagre talents perhaps? Rather likes the sound of his own voice is it? Or very reasonably thinks that some celebrity bloggers are way too big for their size tens? Not to mention encroaching on the lives and work of time-served professionals.

It seems obvious that mainstream media ought to be interactive and reactive as well as being proactive. They are in the communication business after all. Of course there are dramas and films and education and entertainments and news shows and documentaries that are in effect largely one way traffic. Like a play, a lecture, a book, or an after dinner speech.

Only applause/response/reaction is required. But separate. Not mixed in.

But there are plenty of other broadcasting formats that clearly wish to be more like conversations with the audience.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. While Blue Peter has now entered the controversial world of the 'phone-in they have always had art competitions, always encouraged feedback and letters, always had audience appeals, and indeed very often had community groups, sports teams, school choirs, effectively members of their target audience, taking part.

So this is hardly a new phenomenon for broadcasters. Lots of strong formats are absolutely based on audience participation. Points of View is such a show. On radio we have Gardeners World, Any Questions, Any Answers. There's Question Time, with QT Extra extending this from the studio to the whole audience.

These are just the most obvious examples. Newspapers have letters pages, problem pages, submitted filler paragraphs and "got a story?" boxes don't they? Why should broadcast media be any different?

Radio Five Live, like Mair's own show, has a very high quotient of phone in content and often gets callers who are better experts than the ones they hire. A day or two ago, Friday, they had an extremely effective GP speaking about teenage pregnancy who had simply called in "off the street" whereas an expert hairdresser talking about weave problems was useless - and he'd been booked.

There is also of course an issue with more and more audience generated content as jobs are cut ... especially when that content is free ... but interactivity is very very important if you want to build a brand for a show, a blog, a paper.

The same ought to go for political parties, natch.

Question Time is of course a model of participation. Though with a predominance of pre-vetted questions they can be rather like auteurs by proxy, creating faux interaction by picking others to voice the questions they would ask anyway.

QT Extra extends this illusion or reality - you decide - from the studio to the whole audience. The yoof culture expert and author Rupa Huq, inspired by an appearance on QTE, blogged interactively here. Not such an obvious Mair-ite on the face of it. Or is this just a come on for a chat?

Rupa may agree that it is just possible that as the winner of a Sony Gold Award as "Best Interactive Programme 2007" Eddie is aiming his prickly barbs at the lowest common denominator end of the market? Where the 'phone-in green inkers take over the asylum? Not to mention those damned up themselves bloggers?


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Libdemologists: Hughes Breaks Honest Broker Promise

Lib Dem Simon Hughes apparently promised that he wouldn't be declaring in the gripping race to mislead the third party. But now it seems he's backing Cleggy. As is Lembit Opik whose backing has previously functioned as kiss of debt death. So this may be be good news for Huhne. Man Wit MP John Leech is still not with the programme. Lib Dem Voice have the story with links to their previous, here.

Dizzy meanwhile may have caught Chris Huhne out (a) with a serious conflict of interest; or (b) unselfishly ignoring his own financial well being. That's here.

Question Time Extra: Dress Rehearsal / Audition for QT?

An interesting discussion this week. Beginning with Miaow! As Dr Rupa Huq reminds a somethingly patronising presenter that she is a serious author too. Not just Blue Peter Konnie's big sis. And with a far more serious but BP-related point later as Rupa points out that the Controller of BBC1 was forced to resign over CookieSocks-gate ... whereas Sir Iain Blair is holding his ground.

The BBC resignation though was pretty silly. So that was not quite the killer shot it might have been had that departure made sense.

Recommended, available until Wednesday only. Dr Huq passed the audition for the real thing. BBC Slayer Richard D North would be a waste of a chair.

Blogsclusive: Labour Party Activist Batters Protestor

Outside a Labour Party Conference. Where they protested about heavy handed policing. Crikey! Where're the Tory Boy Bloggers? Not where the action is.

George Galloway: "It Ain't Nothing But A Heart Ache"

Yesterday was a busy news day over at Respect HQ: George Galloway splits from Respect; and Locks changed on Respect office ; and Respect branches: conference must go ahead. But while George's propaganda feed did proclaim this sad splitting of the ways, Uncle George's website has taken a principled stand and relegated these trivial earthly matters to oblivion and concentrated on the spirited, nay spiritual, selling of:

Miranda Media's "Blackpool Rocks" aka "the Mother of all Talk Shows" (main story); The Stop the War/Ugly Rumours Chart Foray "War"; But sadly not The Fidel Castro Handbook:

We have been unable to supply recent orders for the Fidel Castro Handbook. This has been because the publishers, MQ, are in liquidation and the books, as assets, are being held in a warehouse and not released until the legal formalities are settled. So, a sincere apology to anyone who has recently ordered the book and it has not been sent.
We have been talking to the former publishers and the liquidator and we are hopeful that we can shortly resume supply. However, it you have ordered and paid for the book and if the matter is not resolved by the end of this coming week, April 27, a full refund will be sent to you. Once more, sorry for the delay.

The Show, as they say, Must Go On. Though no news since April 27 is a bit worrying for a well-oiled Command Economy. Perhaps that is tea total George's mistake? Though the uber capitalists and exploiters over at Amazon do have both new copies and quite a trade in retreads. Perhaps readers were disappointed to have bought a blethering chapter in the bullocking autobiography of GG with scant mention of FC? I don't know, I'm only guessing.

Gross Functional Overlay: Shahid Exaggerated Five-Fold?

"Don't You Know Who I Am?" Minister Shahid Malik MP is now getting roughed up by the Tory press who report US sources, relying on CCTV records, that he was detained for just eight minutes, not the 40 that he claimed.

Meanwhile in a rat-a-tat tit-for-tat exchange the Minister's people are insisting that a 20 to 30 minute wait is being disregarded. Airport Security are saying he was selected on ticket-based protocols. Neither by religion nor racial profiling. Malik is saying he had a verbal apology from the Ambassador Tuttle. And more Americans are saying that this should not have been made public. And that Malik shouldn't have complained anyway when Airport Security is so important. Which is in fact more tits than tats.

Hat tip: Conservative Home.

Blogsclusive: Rickitt Risks All With Ribald Valley Member

"Is this the final nail in the coffin of former Tory A-lister Adam Rickitt's political ambitions?" asks a mournful Oliver Marre as Pendennis in The Observer. Over a little story I've been keeping warm for a while now. "Shortland Street Star in Shorthand Salutation"

Former Conservative Party A Lister Adam Rickitt - who now, very convincingly I should think, plays the mysterious ex-pimp's hardman, current womaniser, and exploding brain survivor Kieran Mitchell in the NZ soap Shortland Street aka 'Shorty' (see last post) - unknowingly repeated Blair's infamous hand gesture, and was recorded for posterity by Nigel Evans MP's art director, well before Blair's gesture was turned into front page news.

Many of these A Listers were granted special status by the Tories' mini-Blair David Cameron because they are women, from black and ethnic minorities, openly homosexual, with towering intellect, A List celebrity status, or some combination. All under-represented in Tory ranks. We still haven't worked out where Adam stands. His inclusion was a complete mystery in fact.

The picture, taken on the Terrace at the HoP, was apparently uploaded on 5 November 2006 and so has been available from Mr Evans' website for just a day short of a year. Eight months of this after Blair was convicted of the same offence.

Mr Rickitt (25 tvnz or 29 wiki) whose first break was playing Nicky Tilsey on Coronation Street was in the New Zealand news recently over a shop lifting and age reducing incident and also for successfully obtaining a NZ residency permit.

Mr Evans (50 BBC or 50 wiki) is no stranger to photographic controversy and back in April he chose to huff and puff about The Daily Mirror blowing an "innocent incident" out of all proportion. And then he removed the innocent photograph from the very same gallery. This (featured at the huff and puff link) pictured a group of revellers at a Rotary charity barbecue who had hilariously chosen to "black up" as fancy dress.

Mr Evans was not himself blacked up, as that would have been too dangerous even for him, though he was wearing a very loud shirt.

It does seem extraordinary that Mr Evans was not by now aware of the presence of this gesture on the photograph. Particularly given the coverage of Mr Blair's own youthful indiscretion. Is this the nearest the member for the Ribald Valley gets to living dangerously?

UPDATE 08:45: Some links and editing added.

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.