COBRASounds terribly exciting, doesn't it? Images of a top-secret hideout, something like Dr. Strangelove, named after a dangerous animal, poised and ready to strike come up. Unfortunately, it only stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. It's a room with lots of telephone lines. It's not something for Sky News to get all breathless about.
The problems with 24 hour news coverageI'm watching BBC News 24's coverage of the bomb that failed to go off on Haymarket. There is, it would seem, no other news going on anywhere in the world. The regular updates on the quarter-hour aren't happening.
Now, if this were a large story or lots of things were happening or there was new information to report, I'd understand the need for excluding everything else. Instead, they are repeating the same stories over and over. Infuriatingly, they've been endlessly interviewing people from the street. I dislike vox pops anyway - they're as unscientific as you can have - but I really don't care what someone who happened to be in the area thinks about how many people might have died. I heard this exchange on News 24:
Interviewer: "If there had been an explosion, what do you think would have happened?"Are you, random person, an expert in explosives? Perhaps you have counter-terrorism training, or a medical practitioner of some description? Or perhaps you're a random person from the street who has nothing of value to add as we can see on the television what's going on.
Random: "I think there would have been a lot of fatalities. I would say there were about five hundred people in Tiger, Tiger"I've been in Tiger, Tiger. It's on four floors. How useful is one random person's opinion of the number of people in there? How useful is their opinion, given that we have only a few details about the bomb, as to the potential number of fatalities? I'd go for 'not useful at all'.
In this report and others, all news channels, including the BBC, have this bloody awful tendency to interview each other. An anchor's job is to anchor and read the news - they are not experts in what's going on; nor are they meant to be. I want to hear what the expert or correspondent has to say (preferably with excess drama, hand-waving or trying to be the next Nick Robinson) without intervention from someone who's job is to read from an autocue.
The only development in the few hours I've been watching the story is closing off Park Lane because of a suspect vehicle in the area. Meanwhile, various government appointments have been made with no reporting, let alone commentary. I am an unashamed supporter of the idea of a BBC and of BBC news coverage. They would make me a lot happier if they led the way in separating news from commentary & opinion, covering what needs to be covered rather than what receives cheap viewing figures.
Is Cheney in the legislative or the executive branch?Well, there's a post title that won't attract many people. It is, though, a serious question. Instapundit, via Matt Sinclair, raises the interesting point that, according to the US Constitution, the Vice President would preside over their own impeachment in the Senate. I made this comment:
...This is a good example of something I've been thinking about quite a lot of late - the imperfections in the US constitution. There was, from what I can see, a lot of debate about what form the executive should take. Originally, the Pres and Veep were not elected on a ticket, and so the conflict of interest is not as obvious; indeed, any conflict might have been because of outright animosity between VP and President.This is added to by something I heard on The Daily Show this evening - is the Vice President a member of the legislative branch, of the executive branch or of both? Certainly, the Vice President is mentioned in the sections on both legislature and executive (A1 S3 and A4 S1 inter alia) and has functions in both - to chair the Senate and break ties in the former instance and to replace the President if necessary in the latter. Beyond that, the Vice President's responsibilities are not set out.
The Daily Show's criticism was that Mr Cheney had refused to comply with an executive order on the basis that his functions were not entirely within the executive branch. At this point, various people came on to say that this was constitutionally ridiculous. I'm no expert, but I disagree with them on the basis that the constitution is not clear and so there is room for legitimate debate1. The more damaging objection (which Jon Stewart made little of) was that he'd used a similar argument in a similar position in 2001, but saying that he was part of the executive to avoid legislative questions.
The constitutional niceties are somewhat unimportant. All this arguing goes to prove three points.
A. The constitution is wide-open to interpretation. Arrogating it, on the basis of longevity or emotional attachment2, powers it does not warrant or deserve is profoundly dangerous. Given that great pains are taken to separate powers and guard against monarchical rule, or any semblance thereof, by corrupt or malign officials, it is a pretty pair of oversights that Mr Cheney has 'stumbled across'.
B. Even if the original document was perfect for its time, both times and it has changed. Amendments, such as those concerning election of the Vice President no longer being the person who came second for President, damage any coherence it may have had.
C. All the constitutional argument in the world does little good if some people are prepared to hide behind its details to avoid its spirit. The constitution is no more than a piece of paper if people go out of their way to avoid it and are abetted in so doing by legislators and the fourth estate.
1 - Mr Cheney's case was somewhat hurt by the release today of news that arms of the American state went out of their way to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate - as Mandy Rice-Davies would have said - well he would say that, wouldn't he? As I've said before, that's an ad hominem and a logical fallacy, but it doesn't change the amount of damage it does.
2 - This is an older ancestor worship than I used to think, although it has changed, I think, into focusing on individuals rather than principles. "We can win no laurels in a war for independence. Earlier and worthier hands have gathered them all. Nor are there places for us ... [as] the founders of states. Our fathers have filled them. But there remains to us a great duty of defence and preservation." Joseph J. Ellis; Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams. (2001) p. 214
Quentin Davies defects to LabourQuentin Davies, MP for Margaret Thatcher's hometown of Grantham and Stamford, has defected to the Labour party. More on the BBC News website. In a letter to Dave Cameron, Davies said that the Conservative party "appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything".
Davies isn't massively high-profile, but can't be dismissed as a back-bencher: he was shadow Minister for Pensions 1998-99, shadow Paymaster General 1999-2000, shadow Minister for Defence 2000-01 and shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 2001-03. He was First Secretary in the FCO after being Second Secretary in Moscow.
Iain Dale has been complaining about low coverage of the Conservatives - this should help!
Quintessential EnglishnessUnfortunately, I didn't have my camera, but walking through St James' Park yesterday, I had the sheer delight of seeing a police band playing (I think) a Souza march. The sun was shining; the birds were flying; the tourists were somewhat confused; and the whole thing was wonderful in every way.
It is part of a series of events in the Royal Parks that includes, of course, a bandstand programme.
What price Jon Cruddas' support, Harriet?Well, congratulations to Harriet Harman on winning the Labour deputy leadership and commiserations to everyone else. Looking at the results, it's pretty clear that Jon Cruddas' votes transferred to Harriet in the last redistribution, narrowly pushing her past the winning post. Jon Cruddas' clear call at the Newsnight hustings to put Harriet as second preference, it is probably fair to say, won the election for Ms Harman.
For the record, I supported Jon Cruddas and my reasons are here.
Given that he started the campaign as an unknown, rank outsider (I hadn't heard of him, despite having campaigned in Barking, although that probably says as much about me as anything), his performance was fantastic. There will be no extraction of a pound of flesh from the Cruddas camp, but I do hope that both Jon's support for Harriet and the significant support his campaign had will lead to a few specific things being pushed. I hope these will include:
There was, it would seem, no deal before the hustings; Harriet did not (as I recall) tell her voters to second preference Jon Cruddas or anyone else. Nevertheless, he did tap into a real current of both thought and discontent with the current situation on which all the other campaigns later sought to capitalise.
One final note. Both BBC News 24 and Sky News were reporting that Ms Harman had won before the result was announced at the conference. That is either a deliberate or an accidental leak; either way, it is unfortunate. The latter case suggests a weakness in security while the former suggests collusion between the news networks and the Labour party. What was Tony saying about a 'feral beast'?
Which hat should I buy next?As people who know me IRL will know, I usually wear a hat and there are pictures of some of my hats that change with each page load at the top of the blog. I've decided it's time for a new hat and I want to know what people think. I'm probably going to splash out a bit and buy one from Lock and Company of St James. The choices are a Chelsea, a Louisiana, a Manhattan, a Vienna, a York, an Astrakhan, a deerstalker or a Madison. Click on the links for images. What do people think?
The poll has now closed. The York won. Images can be found at Lock and Co's website.
Thoughts on Lib-LabGordon Brown has, it would seem, approached various Lib Dems with a view to joining the Government in some capacity, possible at the Cabinet table. The story was broken, I think, by the Guardian this morning. I can't help but think that this might be the first shot in a coalition negotiation in case the next general election ends up with no-one having an overall majority. The people are pretty well respected - Paddy Ashdown, Lord Carlile, Lord Lester and Rabbi Julia Neuberger.
1. It certainly puts the cat amongst the pigeons. One of the problems with being a third party is how much you sacrifice to get into government. The debate now has to go on at the top, and it already seems to be causing splits.
2. I'd originally heard that Paddy Ashdown would have a job around Iraq rather than Northern Ireland. That would seem to me to be more logical - he has a track record of 'dealing with Muslims' in Bosnia, he's already involved in Northern Ireland as the head of the parades body and Northern Ireland seems to be settling down. Moreover, the LibDems are best placed to oppose Iraq in total and it's where most help is needed.
3. It gets both Labour and the LibDems used to and thinking about a coalition. My suspicion is that the leadership of the LibDems, particularly the Orange Book faction, are to the right of the membership and LibDem voters. I don't think it's controversial to say that a lot of LibDem voters vote yellow because they see it as being to the left of Labour's red. It will be talked about by ordinary LibDems and may flow upwards - if the choice were between Labour and Tory, who would the LibDems rather go with? I think it will be Labour.
4. It makes Gordon Brown look statesmanlike and above narrow, party politics when there was probably no danger of the LibDems accepting happening.
5. It takes the heat from the press off the people who are likely to be in government, giving Brown a bit more time to decide who to put where. Tony Blair didn't leave enough time in his diary for the negotiations about filling government posts and the job may, particularly depending on the outcome of the deputy leadership elections, be rather more difficult as there are rather more people with track records, good and bad, in government.
6. It will be no surprise if there are more talks with people like Paddy. Party aside, he does seem to have something of a knack for conflict resolution. Equally, bringing in the independent reviewer of terrorism from the LibDems would make it harder for the LibDems to bang on the civil liberties drum.
7. One wonders who was the driver for working with the LibDems, so rapidly dropped after Labour's first, crushing general election victory, between 1994 and 1997.
8. Lord Lester, the LibDems' Lords equalities spokesperson, seems to be the most likely candidate, willing as he is to join in on constitutional reform. Any constitutional changes should need cross-party support, and Lester's presence would make it easier to woo LibDems. I wonder if Lester will say that there should be gradual change, starting with the Lords, before PR in some form for the Commons happens.
Interesting things have been written by Skipper, Threescore Years & Ten and the inimitable Iain Dale.
Amusing search terms that have led to my blog"do i have to pack a bag when i go to court for sentencing"
"glass outlets in yeovil"
"why did david cole die?"
I can confirm that reports of my death have been grossly overstated.
All from the Tracksy widget I have on my blog.
Treasury Select Committee on private equityI encourage everyone to watch the Treasury Select Committee tearing into representatives of the private equity groups Permira, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR), 3i and Carlyle Group. I'll write it up later, but this session was meant to finish at 1615 - a one hour session is now at two hours and fifteen minutes and counting.
You can watch it at www.parliamentlive.tv.
Sir Salman Rushdie 2.0I wrote here that
I'm sure that the FCO and Cabinet Office would have considered the impact that this knighthood would haveand it turns out I'm completely wrong, as the Guardian reports:
It emerged today that the government arts committee that recommended the knighthood did not discuss any possible political ramifications, and reportedly never imagined that the award would provoke the furious response that it has done in parts of the Muslim world.The one good thing about this apparent, er, oversight is that it kicks the stool from under those in Iran who that this was a calculated insult to them - it wasn't calculated at all.
What role should politics play in awards, honours and decorations? Should we be able to recognise the great if not necessarily good - as in the Nobel Peace Prizes that went to Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev and Yasser Arafat? While I am prepared to accept that good came of Gorbachev, for instance, I'm not sure at all that it was deliberate, given that he wanted to open communism enough to guarantee its survival. I'm not sure I agree with sport being 'beyond politics' - viz., the South African sports boycott - and so the same applies here. Ultimately, for literary accolades at least, the determination should be done on the basis of someone's writing.
Does anyone know what awards Iran gives out and who has received them?
Sir Salman RushdieI haven't read any of Salman Rushdie's books. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. He should, though, be able to write what he wants free from intimidation. A lot of people are condemning the reactions to his knighthood - that is well and good. I hope that someone in Pakistan is writing that the reactions are misguided, wrong and damaging to perceptions of Islam.
One slight note of caution. By being offered and accepting a knighthood, Rushdie does become part of the establishment. This is neither good nor bad, and is often a sign of the mature period of a writer's career. While it does not signify any form of approval of the content of his works, it does perhaps echo the general unease that some feel around Muslim-'Western' relations.
I'm sure that the FCO and Cabinet Office would have considered the impact that this knighthood would have. My concern is that his gradual reappearance into public life has made people here fail to appreciate that it is entirely possible that the last time Rushdie's name was heard to some was in connection with the Satanic Verses, with ignorant fervour whipped up by self-promoting clerics.
Interesting things on this have been written by Matt Sinclair, Tiberius Gracchus, Vino and Iain Dale.
I think one thing could help both this and the aftermath of the Danish cartoons would be for a senior Muslim in the UK - Iqbal Sacranie? - to say that it is acceptable and perhaps necessary to criticise Islam.
Is the Independent plagiarising chain emails?I received this email from my good friend, Molly Mulready-Jones, over email on the sixth of June. It's rather long, so it follows below. The same piece appeared in today's Independent. The by-line on both is Carole Angier. I wonder what's going on there. Did they commission this from Carole Angier? In which case, how did it end up doing the rounds on email a couple of weeks beforehand? Anyway, I hope you read it and I'm glad of the publicity in the Indie.
Read the rest of this post by clicking here.
Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for EnglandFrom my line manager...
The Government has an Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England. Unfortunately, the acronym is AHRSE.
Father Jack would approve...
PopBitch, Paris Hilton and Genarlow WilsonI don't usually like PopBitch - it is scurrilous rumour-mongering. However, they make a valid point, as they sometimes do, in their latest bulletin on a 17-year old black man sentenced to ten years in jail for consensual oral sex with a fifteen year old. Do please read.
To say that teenagers messing around deserves ten years is 'cruel and unusual'; to say that and then allow someone drink-driving - inherently dangerous - to be given half their sentence for good behaviour before entering prison and considering allowing part of the sentence to be served in a palatial mansion is grossly unfair even before considerations of wealth and race are taken into account. All this in a country which is supposed to be the home of the free.
Russia: a czar living in greatly reduced circumstancesRussia does come across as an old aristocrat, now living in greatly reduced circumstances, that feels the desperate need to maintain appearances. If we can call Russia a person, it does seem to have moved on from communism by selling not just the family silver, but the estate's mills, mines and factories. A lot of land has been lost along the way, and it is now reduced to drinking aftershave to dull its pain.
Meanwhile, it feels the need to keep up with the other lords of the international community, retaining a million troops, nuclear weapons and submarines and the like. It is much like the lord who polishes the Rolls-Royce but can't afford to have the engine serviced, who has the front room kept immaculately but has all the other furniture covered in dust sheets.
A combination of events have conspired to weaken Russian democracy. I can only surmise that it is nationalism that keeps people in line. Mother Russia's call and the desire to be part of a whole that is somehow great even when your conditions are wretched and blinding you to an oligarchy that keeps you down. Quite aside from the racism and homophobia that Russia has seen of late, I wonder where it will go if the population continues to decline.
Why I am voting Jon Cruddas for deputy leaderNow that my ballot paper has arrived, I have had to make a decision on the deputy leadership. I'm going to give Jon Cruddas both my first preferences.
Before I look at the candidates, I think it makes sense to say what I think the deputy leader should do. I do not think it is about any particular policy agenda - that is for the leader and Conference – but for all the policy agendas and representing the concerns of the rank-and-file membership to the top and organising the party.
That means I can overlook the Iraq war vote (for the record, I was and am against) and specific political policies to a certain extent. I'm interested in implementing what the Labour movement feels is appropriate, rebuilding the party in terms of membership, campaigning and debate. This requires a debate on policy issues - not necessarily the fine detail but the direction and rationale of policy. I do not believe that this would lead to infighting and the like, bringing down a fourth-term Labour government. If anything, the evidence points the other way, as the debate around the deputy leadership has brought people back to the Party.
My suspicion is that Benn would advocate things I'd like on international development, Hain on racism, Northern Ireland and devolution, Harman on women's and family issues and work/life balance and Johnson on perhaps work issues and disadvantaged bits of society. While those are all worthy goals, they should not be the responsibility of the deputy leader to implement. Indeed, such a situation would be almost designed to lead to conflicts within Cabinet, with conflicts between the party-mandated deputy leader and responsible minister.
Some links I've found useful:
A lot of the talk during this election has been out regenerating the party rather than any specific policy platform. This has been led by Jon, who has rather captured the debate. There is something different about Cruddas. He's not been a minister, but you can hardly call him inexperienced, having worked in Number Ten. I've heard a lot of stuff about Cruddas being left wing that I think is hooey. I think he both stands for and would achieve greater responsiveness of the leadership to the party. If his position has changed over the past few years, it is by recognising that the party membership often has good instincts - on the fourth option for housing, for instance - and that the leadership could do well to listen to them. Importantly, I think that Cruddas, not taking on a ministerial portfolio, would have the time to do the job properly.
Cruddas has, I think, captured the debate for the deputy leadership. Everyone else is talking about reconnection and re-engagement and the need to regenerate the party. I’d say that either Cruddas has, as I say, captured the debate, or that some or all of the other candidates are saying that they will give the rank and file more of a voice when they need their votes, or that they are being completely honest (which I believe is true along with point one), in which case I ask why this hasn’t been done before.
The People's Commissar of Englightenment has some good reasons to vote for Jon Cruddas. Some that come top on my list are:
Well, Jon suggested that people transfer to Harriet. To be honest, I’m not sure what she’s standing for. Her website has a biography with lots of worthy achievements, but nothing (that I can see) about going forward, particularly in terms of regenerating the party.
Her principal point is polling that suggests she would be the most popular deputy leader electorally. I think that this doesn’t account for the benefits a reinvigorated membership could bring. A door knock and a cup of tea wins more votes than the particular person occupying the deputy leadership and that requires a different sort of deputy leader. I do hope she has a senior position under Brown, though.
Alan's straight answers on the Newsnight hustings impressed me. I like someone who can both answer a straight question. His answer on housing I particularly like:
Only 1 per cent of social housing is occupied by foreign nationals: they are not the cause of the housing problem - their exclusion is not a solution. We must build more social housing so we can allocate accommodation to those who need it, not just those who need it the most.
I have to be honest and say that the endorsement of The Sun does not endear Mr Johnson to me, but it doesn’t affect my impression the other way either. Mr Johnson’s website includes the following in an open letter to Labour party members:
The key role of the Deputy, however, must be subordinate to and supportive of the Leader; to carry out whatever duties the Leader sees as being essential to securing a fourth term of office.I have to disagree. The deputy leader must have a clear vision of what they want to do that does not conflict needlessly with the leader, but that does not involve subordinating the role; quite the opposite, in fact.
Comes across as very nice, has held the international development portfolio and has the voice and gestures of his father. Fortunately, he has none of the fractiousness. Just as a quick aside, I'd have liked to have seen him done more in terms of corporate philanthropy. While I don't doubt that he would be competent, I don't see any reason to vote for him. Nor, though, do I see any reason to vote against him, so it won't surprise me if he picks up lots of second and third preferences and comes through to win.
Mr Benn's letter to CLPs runs:
How? Vague aspirations don't do much for me.
At the beginning of the campaign (which was well before it was announced), my inclination was towards Peter Hain. While he has not single-handedly solved the Northern Ireland question, he successfully played his significant role. While I think he has captured the mood of the party about the relationship to the leadership, I have a feeling that he is 'talking left' and that the position he takes might be transitory.
Mr Hain’s manifesto is also full of good intentions but has nothing that I can see against which I could judge his performance. His manifesto runs:
making the whole NPF process far more transparent, as well tackling the perception that the NPF simply acts as ‘rubber stamp’ by allowing it to consider more alternate policy positions.One question – how? This question comes up again and again as I read his manifesto and I’m afraid I’m not convinced.
I don't think it'll come as a shock to anyone to say that I am not enamoured of Tony Blair. He has been Labour's most successful leader, winning three consecutive general elections and bringing through some fantastic policies, not least of which is the minimum wage. Hazel, although personable (I chatted to her for a bit after a meeting at LSE), is too close to Mr Blair in policy terms. As I said, I don't think this is necessarily about policy. Hazel is also close in terms of presentation. She has talked about the battle bus which is jolly, good fun for hacks and gives a nice image for the headline news. That, however, will not rebuild the party nor allow policies, relevant to people on the ground, to flow upwards. Moreover, I feel that Hazel becoming deputy leader would legitimise her as party chair, a position in which she has been less than successful. I also think her idea of a minister for manifesto delivery (read: minister without portfolio) is a bad idea. Every minister should be delivering their brief in line with the party's manifesto. The manifesto is not an exhaustive document, and so there can be both renewal and reformulation of policy in power through consultation with the Labour family or a new manifesto to stand on for a new election1.
I will be casting both my party and union (Unite/Amicus) in the following order:
Hazel Blears 6
Hilary Benn 4
Jon Cruddas 1
Peter Hain 5
Harriet Harman 2
Alan Johnson 3
A few final thoughts
I have had leaflets through the door from all the candidates. It would have been preferable, I think, if they could have sent them out in one envelope to all members. As I understand it, some candidates have had difficult getting easy access to some membership lists. It would also have saved paper and money.
The debate around the deputy leadership has been good. I hope that Labour can carry on debating in a civilised and responsive manner, recognising that this attracts people. It is possible to have a genuine discussion within an agreed or accepted framework.
DISCLAIMER: this post was written over three days and on four different machines. If it is incoherent, inconsistent or riddled with errors, I'd appreciate it if you could let me know.
1 - I'll come back to this in the future when I've had time to think about it, but I think a 4- or 5- year term is too long.
Dave's new computer - with UbuntuI'm feeling rather pleased with myself. Being somewhat geeky, I've been wanting to build my own computer for a little while now and I finally have. In fairness, I did use a barebones kit, which makes it easier. I'll spare everyone the gory details, but it's really not particularly hard - especially with a Haynes manual to hand.
I've also gone open source and installed Ubuntu as my operating system instead of any flavour of Windows, least of all Vista. That was pretty easy to install - the only teething problem has been making Ubuntu work with a widescreen monitor, but that's been fixed. It's also completely free and cost me not a penny. Well, about 80p for the CD I used.
The change is pretty straightforward. The main programmes I used on my other, Windows machine were OpenOffice and Mozilla. These come as standard with Ubuntu, so no change there. The graphics programme I used is the GIMP - again, comes already with Ubuntu. So far, so good.
Labels: Open source
David AireyOne of the widgets on my blog, MyBlogLog, allows me to see other MyBlogLog users who have visited my blog. A recent appearance on there, following on from the London 2012 logo post, is David Airey, who has a blog on graphic design and it's really rather good. Do please take a look, particularly this excellent and funny clip on how not to use PowerPoint. Anyone who's had to sit through some godawful presentation done on PowerPoint will understand - it worries me that this phenomenon is widespread enough that the skit is apparently done in a comedy club.
The London 2012 logoI really liked the old logo for London 2012. It was colourful without being gaudy and imaginatively used the shape of the Thames as an integral part of the design. It was measured and confident and was very much the impression I'd like to give of London.
The BBC website reports that it has had a record number of posts complaining about it and even suggest this might be a giant con, as you can submit your own design to the London 2012 website. Unfortunately, Auntie Beeb didn't read the article properly, as you have to fit your pictures into an abstract template they give you. I might have a go, though.
We now have, as Iain Dale puts it, what looks like the advert for the Annual Rabbit Shagging Championships. It fell at the first hurdle - I didn't realise that the pink shapes said '2012'. Indeed, I didn't realise they were meant to say anything. Moreover, it says of London 'we love shite PR'. Quite why the rebrand was thought necessary, I don't know. If this is an attempt to move on from the troubles of rising costs that have troubled London 2012 of late, I'd say the money could have been better spent. In fairness, the agency behind it have come up with a genius way of making new business - the design will, according to LOCOG, evolve up to 2012. Sorry to whoever designed it, but I don't like it.
In fairness, there will have to be additions to whatever design is used to allow for the pictograms that are used for each sport. Wikipedia has good examples of the pictograms for Beijing 2008. The Thames ribbon could easily be adapted for pictograms for London 2012.
I actually think the old river logo had some identity to it - people seemed to recognise it, particularly as it was the background for the fantastic moment in Trafalgar Square when the host city was announced. With a bit of luck, they'll go back to the former logo post haste. With a bit more luck, I'll do some designing and see if I can do better.
One good thing about the new set of logos - they were for the Olympics and Paralympics, emphasising that the games are for all. It doesn't change the fact that they look rubbish. The old logo emphasised the fact that it was in London, a city inextricably connected to the Thames. The new one doesn't emphasise unity or anti-discrimination so much as tastelessness.
I feel a Freedom of Information request coming on...
Paris Hilton goes to gaolParis Hilton, who I'm told is the archetype of the 'celebutante' has gone to prison. It is tragic that this person is a role model, it would seem, for people when she comes out with such lines as "In the future, I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make". Who has been taking the active role in her decisions to date? I can only assume that it's a serially hassled PR, who in fairness is doing wonders in terms of her pronouncements, before gaol, to rehabilitate her, trying to make her spell in the slammer a positive experience with lines such as "I am ready to begin my jail sentence" and "This is an important point in my life, and I need to take responsibility for my actions". I can hardly wait for the first glossy magazine after her release to carry a story about how much she learnt in prison, take actions for her responsibility, love my cellmate, see how the other half live, yadda yadda yadda.
Sadly, we're all so fed up with PR that a lot of people see anything she says as PR spin. Particularly when she admits to not taking an active role in the decisions she's made to date.
Map of new constituenciesDoes anyone know where I can find a map of the UK parliamentary constituencies with the changes for the next General Election (including new or revived seats like Westminster North)?
Update 1600: thanks to Luke Akehurst for emailing me links to the maps I'm after. Map to come after a period of geekery on the computer.
CLP supporting nominationsIn the deputy leadership, CLPs can give supporting nominations. A total of 309 have seen fit to do so, and the breakdown is Hilary Benn (77), Jon Cruddas (68), Harriet Harman (60), Alan Johnson (45), Hazel Blears (36) and Peter Hain (23). Map to follow later.
The full list of nominations and supporting nominations is here.
Disabled- and gay- only shortlists?There's been talk of late, coming from the deputy leadership election debates, about BME-only shortlists following the success of women-only shortlists. I tend to think in terms of the four NUS liberation campaigns - women's, BME, LGBT and people with disabilities, but if the argument holds for women-only shortlists and BME-only shortlists, why would the argument not hold for LGBT- or disability-only shortlists?
There is one big difference - it's not obvious from looking at someone if they're LGBT and not necessarily obvious if they're disabled, so there are going to be people in the Commons (and, indeed, the Lords) who fall into these categories. However, it would be tremendously helpful if people could be open about being disabled or LGBT and, as this isn't possible at the moment, a way (and I'm not necessarily advocating this) of increasing the number
There would be a problem with people saying 'you're not really gay' or 'you're not really disabled' in a way that isn't possible with women or BME people. There would also be the usual crowd crying that this is political correctness gone too far and that we're putting society into little boxes. It's true that groupings like 'women', 'LGBT', 'BME' and disabled are not a perfect tool. Doubtless, some wag would write to the Daily Mail (probably in green ink) saying that Parliament would be the playground of disabled, black lesbians.
PoliticalBetting.com and Jon CruddasPoliticalBetting.com has this graphic of the odds on different Labour deputy leadership candidates. The clear trends, after the Newsnight hustings, are the odds shortening on John Cruddas (he's doing well) and lengthening on Peter Hain (he's doing badly). Alan Johnson and Hilary Benn are on a different graphic as their odds are much shorter - between 1.7 and 2.
Certainly, Cruddas has improved and Hain is generally seen as being in a weak position, but I have the impression that Political Betting functions as part of the blogosphere and so the information it gives reflects the mores of that section. I don't know whether it's represenative or not, but a few things are certain. Jon Cruddas does (it seems to me) have a clear advantage in the blogosphere (with some notable exceptions), but you can't blog if you don't have access to the internet. The wonderful people at National Statistics have this release on internet access by region, with this chart:
Hazel Blears, for instance, represents the North West of England, which has rather lower internet penetration that London, where Jon Cruddas hails from. If it is right (and I'm not saying it is) that there is either a London or a blogger bias (or both) towards Cruddas, this would explain the success on PoliticalBetting.com.