Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Beyond the call of duty?

This story from The Times regarding the Glaswegian firmen who refused to attend a Gay Pride festival to hand out fire safety leaflets.

"The officers at the Cowcaddens station, led by watch manager Brian Herbert, claimed that they acted on moral grounds when they disobeyed an order to hand out fire safety literature at an event billed as a “gay, bisexual and transgender festival”. "

"Their stand was supported by the Fire Brigades Union, but the officers were sent written warnings and ordered to attend “diversity training” courses. Mr Herbert, who is just two years from retirement, was demoted to crew manager, resulting in a salary loss of £5,000 per year."

"At an internal hearing in Glasgow yesterday the firemen appealed against the punishments, arguing that they were entitled to object on grounds of conscience and that the public relations exercise was not a core part of their duties. "

An interesting principle here. The firefighters were punished for disobeying a direct order. "Quite right" some would say, and no doubt the usual suspects are lining up to accuse the firemen of homophobia and call them a million nasty names.

Consider for a second though what they were expected to do.

Handing out fire safety leaflets is a fairly common practice for fire crews at big events, and the benefits are obviously apparent in raising public awareness. However, did anyone stop to consider that this particular public gathering may be a bit different?

It is amazing that with all the fuss and discussion with the powers that be, that no one has dared to mention that perhaps asking any employee to attend a festival that is dedicated to sex and sexuality might be a bit strong for even the burliest fireman.

Imagine the equivalent scenario. Glasgow City Council decide to hold a massive straight sex festival. Into this mix, the local hospital decides to send a posse of that other cliched fantasy - nurses in full uniform - to hand out leaflets on health. (Notice here that there is probably a more direct connection between job and benefit than in the case of the firemen).

The outcry would be appalling. A group of young female nurses forced to endure the sly comments of men gathered with only one thing on their minds? What were they thinking? Women's groups would be outraged, newspapers would have a field day, heads would roll at the NHS trust.

However, sadly, for the poor firemen, the Fire Brigade has no such sensibilities towards its employees. Discrimination cuts one way in this case and others like it, and whilst the commentators foam at the mouth the poor sids who bear the brunt of the fallout are the poor undefended firefighters from Cowcaddens.

Coming Soon

Thursday, October 26, 2006

State Sponsored Tourism (Sponsored by Durex!!!)

This story regarding the massive use of condoms and 'love hotels' in South Korea following the North's Nuclear test.

South Korean condom sales, motel bookings surged after North's nuclear test SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Condom sales and pay-by-the-hour "love motel" bookings surged across South Korea in the aftermath of North Korea's nuclear test, the country's top newspaper reported Thursday.

South Koreans are used to living in the shadow of war, and life has continued as normal in the capital, Seoul, in the wake of the Oct. 9 test. But figures published by the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper Thursday suggest that despite their apparently blase reaction to the North's nuclear bluster, many South Koreans may be seeking solace in sex.

Condom sales at a leading chain of convenience stores rose to an average of 1,930 a day in the week after the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test, compared to the 2006 daily average of 1,508 condoms sold, the paper said.

Daily sales of the prophylactics dropped slightly to 1,772 in the week from Oct. 16-21, but remained well above the daily average.

A popular online reservation site for South Korea's "love motels" - the popular term for lodgings
built for clandestine rendezvous - also reported a surge in bookings immediately after the heightened security threat.

The affordable motels are a fixture across South Korea. In one of the world's most densely
populated countries, where extended families often live together, such accommodations provide
a refuge for those seeking discreet locations for intimate encounters.

But those who haven't already made their reservations will have to wait. The online system says it has no available slots until the end of the month.

Boris on Tax

This article from Boris in The Telegraph today. Well worth a read.

" It is no consolation to her (RAF employee) to say that interest rates are low. She has no mortgage. It's the tax that's making her life so much harder — the huge amount the state claws back from the derisory sum it gives her. "

"So when those Labour people come on and say it's only the greedy Tories who care about tax cuts, think of the lady who keeps the helicopters flying, and her unbearable cheerfulness."

"...much of Middle Britain doesn't feel the impact of tax in the way that low-paid personnel in the Armed Services feel it, and it is people like the helicopter lady who should have the first call on our protection and support."

Pervez Musharraf on the Daily Show

The Few...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Big Idea? Stoppit with the ideas

Read this article by Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph in tribute to (Lord) Ralph Harris

The premise is simple, modern politicians have no ideology, no real leadership. They exist in a cocooned world moulded by focus groups and opinion polls. Ideology, he argues, should be the driving force of modern politics, and politicians should trade in their 'followership' for 'leadership', converting people to their way of thinking. He says;

"The absence of ideas is acceptable only in a one-party state. Despite the
very good imitation that each of the main political parties does of the others,
we are not at that pass yet.But unless a new generation of thinkers has the
courage to pick up Ralph Harris's baton, and show that ideas are nothing to
fear, we soon will be."

A typical 'sound' argument that will resonate with many Thatcherite-era Tories. However, could I humbly suggest that in fact the single most useful ideology for modern politicians is to abandon any one ideology.

Consider Sweden.

I lived there for nine months and was astounded as a student of political theory at how 'lagom' the place was. 'Lagom' roughly translates like the Three Bears story, where mummy bear's porridge was 'neither too hot, nor too cold' - so it is with lagom, a state of neither extreme - a happy medium.

Just as with their porridge, the Swedes like their politics similarly lagom - hence the incoming right-wing prime minister of that country doesn't plan more than a tinkering round the edges with the famed Swedish social model. The parliament of Sweden reflects this, a unicameral chamber built upon the principles of consensus and avoiding confrontation. (Interestingly, Sweden's parliament has a very healthy proportion of women as a result of the absence of macho posturing)

Whilst this lack of excitement bored me silly, it struck me how the Swedes have a lovely country, where no one really worries about anything, and especially not big issues, like unemployment, healthcare, education. More likely a heated debate on plastic recycling.

Contrast with France.

I was struck on Channel 4's 'Are all Muslims evil bastards' debate by the comment from the female editor who published the offensive cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed. She said;
"Well I am a person of the left, a radical feminist" and proceeded to constantly bang on about her revoluntionary credentials.

It struck me that no politician in this country outside of the Socialist Workers would ever trot out such outdated language. Yet in France a major editor on a national paper is happily an unapologetic lefty. A sign of the ideology driven political culture of that country.

Look at the state of France. A country with high unemployment, fierce debate over how to tackle the current crises that beset it, and no action to do anything. If Chirac were ever to resolve himself to tackle the problems in a meaningful way he would face chaos as the unions fought to bring down the government.

Britain has already travelled that road. Men like Ralph Harris fought not to impose a radical new idea, but to bring back an old one. 200 years old in fact. What Simon Heffer is perhaps not giving credit to, is that the trauma of the Second World War meant, as Churchill put it,
"that every individual was to subvert their will to that of the state"

The post-war consensus was thus always slanted in that direction, with the government feeling obliged to get things done for people rather than granting them freedom in their own affairs. Thatcher put that right by her willingness to listen to the new-old ideas, however, when Thatcher departed her successors could not grasp that her strength was not solely her ideology, but also her pragmatism. Hence the failure of privatisations based on dogma rather than an uncritical appreciation of the facts. The Tories had passed beyond lagom and gladly headed into right-wing oblivion where they stayed until very recently.

Modern politics takes place on the centre ground, Labour understood this and shifted their camp accordingly, David Cameron is attempting the same. Future debates will not take place over ludicrous notions of the state setting the price of eggs, or owning airlines, or of not exisitng at all, but in that complex no-man's land of compromise and moderation.

As the Conservatives lay to rest a man who did so much to bring Britain back on keel, perhaps we should also lay to rest the idea that politics must involve gargantuan battles between bitterly opposed forces. New policy is likely to evolve gradually from the old. Personal freedom will mix with a responsible state as the battle scars of the past heal.

The challenge of the future is how to convince voters in this not-very-interesting lagom debate that they must change their vote. This is the real Big Idea.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Muslims - Trial by TV (courtesy Channel 4)

Channel 4's dedication to insensitive, cack-handed reporting took an obscene turn last night as Jon Snow hosted a programme discussing just how bad Muslims really were.

The specific topic for discussion was something 'reasonable' along the lines of 'Are Muslims a threat to free speech?' interspersed with less reasonable arguments that painted every follower of one faith into a corner.

You can see where this is going.

And yes, there were some genuinely good arguments put forward by good speakers, but the sad truth is, that Channel 4 showed more considered judgement over some Danish cartoons than over their decision to host an entire programme.

Using the term 'Muslims' manages to pack together 2.4 million people in this country, from all walks of life, of all races and from over a hundred different countries. To suppose, as Channel 4 did, that even modest-sized groups of people could hold a single overarching philosophy on the role of free speech, self-expression and censorship in the modern world is ludicrous.

There are less than two million Northern Irishmen in the world no one has had any luck getting two of them to agree on anything in the past three hundred years. Singling out an entire faith and it's adherents of all kinds is an act of crass simplification.

Channel 4 has a duty of public service, and that duty requires provoking debate on the important issues of our time. Doubtless, when the various luvvies and dahlings at C4's production office dreamt this one up they felt they were on to a winner - sadly they need to listen to the advice of the radical cleric featured on last night's show.

"Yes I can insult your mum, but as a responsible member of society I choose not to."

If the mouthpiece of an organisation so extreme they were nearly banned can come up with gems like this one, surely it can't be beyond the grasp of Jon Snow.

Not a nerd

I am nerdier than 13% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!
Despite the computers stuff, politics and a boyhood flirtation with Star Trek I am officially not a nerd.

Though taking the test is perhaps not the best way to prove that. Try it yourself.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Just found this...

Bit outdated, but brilliant stuff...

Define Irony

Kenyan Marathon runner Robert Cheruiyot beats a competitive field in Chicago to cross the line in first place after 26.2 gruelling miles.

However, right at the moment of crossing the finishing line he slipped on the sponsors own logo and whacked his head off the pavement causing him to be admitted to hospital with a brain haemorrhage.

Video here...

Madonna Stocks up on Childcare products

Hat Tip: Beau Bo D'or

Friday, October 20, 2006

He's not a dictator - he's a very naughty boy!!!

Kim Jong Il has 'expressed regret for the nuclear test' - according to a Chinese diplomat involved in a bilateral summit between the Chinese and North Korean governments.


Bye bye Caroline

Drinks last night with Caroline Hunt and her workmates. Was a fun evening written about in more depth by Caroline here.

Interestingly Mark Clarke decided to make a spontaneous appearance, much to my amusement and (perhaps) Caroline's chagrin.

Regardless, Caroline took the opportunity to post this picture of an electric car.

Which was apparently driven by Boris Johnson. The above picture shows why this sort of technology never takes off. The car is small ugly and not at all desirable. However, I think electric cars will prove to be an important future technology, being as they are quieter, more efficient, cheaper and eco-friendly (though honestly I couldn't give a toss about carbon emissions, as a city dweller I'm worried about air pollution)

So I would plump for this - The Tesla Roadster

Political Music: Imagine (Take a Walk on the Wild Side)

Didn't William Shatner do a version of this?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Russian Dolls

The Religion Debate

From an article in The Daily Telegraph today, thought it would make a good addition to the debate over religious freedoms;

Dr Sentamu made his comments as he opened the David Young academy in Leeds,
during which he put a hand-made wooden cross and an anti-slavery medallion into
a time capsule which is to be buried by the school.

Referring to the "controversy in the news", he said: "The cross is a
symbol used by Christians to remind them of hope. It is the hope of light
overcoming darkness, life victorious over death and good triumphing over

He added: "For those of us who wear a cross, there is not only hope
but also a responsibility. The responsibility that goes with claiming the name
of a Christian. The responsibility to act and to live as Christians.
"Those wearing a cross proclaim themselves followers of Christ and have the duty of
acting accordingly; of showing love to our neighbours of all faiths and none, of
forgiving those who offend or persecute us, or choosing a life of service to
those we meet in this community be they students or teachers, the cool or the
uncool, the weak or the strong. Our duty is to show love to them
"And this is why I will put this cross into the time
capsule. Not only as an enduring symbol of hope, but also as a reminder to those
generations to come of their continuing duty to care for the world in which they
find themselves years from now and to love all of those with whom they share
that world and this very special place."

Nadia Eweida, 55, a committed Christian, was told by BA managers to remove or cover up her small cross. When she refused was sent home on unpaid leave. A decision on whether the company should change its policy, which does not allow any visible jewellery, is expected in a week's time.

From GuyNews.TV

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Holy Crap!!

Wow - this really takes the biscuit. Near the end she says "Do I have to answer all the questions?"

Absolute dynamite! And probably evidence of a political scheme on behalf of some shadowy muslim radical group.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Daily Show: Even Steph(V)en

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Change Agenda in action

Got a great surprise today.

Whilst idly flicking through w4mp.org I came across this series of ads. Lo and behold Mr. Clarke seems to be listening to my advice after all!!!

Advertising on w4mp is a great way to expand the gene pool for volunteers to CF and really makes a change. I first did this two years ago for the copywriters and the improvement was immense. Mark asked me a few weeks ago how I had managed it and when I told him he seemed surprised it could be so easy.

However, change hasn't always been so easy to implement. I said that two weeks was about the minimum time you want to post an ad to get a healthy mix of applicants, four days seems a little shabby, but nonetheless, if YOU think you can help out get in touch with the right people asap!!!

CF needs skilled volunteers working together to make it a better organisation. By pulling together we can make this a much better organisation.

School Sports

Why don't we have moments as entertaining as this dust up between two American football teams?

Best we can hope for is that Rooney uses the F-word....

Exec Blog: Pt 2

The hoary old chesnut of CF Exec accountability has raised it's head with this article on ConHome.

The point is a simple one - how can we make the exec more accountable to its membership?

It is now easier to communciate with the membership due to the existence of CF Diary - an excellent innovation - but unless ConHome is to become the mouthpiece of the main party its use will necessarily be limited. Also, ordinary members of the exec have so far taken a back seat to the Chairman in delivering any message to the membership.

The simple answer, that I have proposed for some time now, is to set up an exec blog.

Each member can have their own section where their responsibilities and successes can be recorded and members can engage in a public dialogue. The power of blogs has already been proven with ConHome, Iain Dale and Guido - it's simplicity is a strength and will bypass a lot of the backstage machinations that have previously bedevilled CF politics.

Already the poll on this site registers 74% in favour of the exec running a blog, and a central blog would avoid the problems of private forums, individual blogs and relying on external sources for communication. It's time the exec realised it's good to talk.

Have your say in the comments...

Friday, October 13, 2006

A little something for the weekend...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

'Are you on crack?' Ads

Ok, so I should perhaps calm down on the video thingys - but Mel Bean just pointed this one out to me.

I'm not sure exactly what it is for - but it is bloody funny. Like Donald Trump on steroids this guy is full of himself and, let's be honest - he was probably bullied as a kid.


Attack ads

The Americans (as always) come up with another cracker in the annals of political broadcasting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Birthday News

24 Today - which makes this 26 years old

1980: Thatcher 'not for turning'
The Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has made a defiant speech to Conservatives at the party conference in Brighton.
In it she stressed her determination to stick to tough economic policies despite doubts expressed within Tory ranks.

Responding to recent expectations of an about-turn on counter-inflationary policies, Mrs Thatcher declared to widespread cheers:

"To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning!"

Outside in the rain, 'Right to Work' protesters demonstrated, two of whom managed to breach security and make their voices heard in the hall.

But her speech did acknowledge the plight of the country's two million unemployed.

"Let me make it clear beyond doubt. I am profoundly concerned about unemployment," she said.

She added: "Human dignity and self-respect are undermined when men and women are condemned to idleness."

The Prime Minister expressed her commitment to reducing inflation which she said was beginning to fall, reminding delegates it was the "parent of unemployment".

She also claimed a number of measures imposed by her government in its first 17 months in office as successes.

This included the "first crucial changes" in trade union law, the breaking down of monopoly powers and allowing council tenants the chance to buy their homes.

Mrs Thatcher condemned Soviet foreign policy and in particular its present occupation of Afghanistan.

In response to the recent demonstrations by Polish ship-workers, she praised their resolve to "participate in the shaping of their destiny", and their actions as testament to a crisis in Communism.

Her closing words were reserved for criticism of Labour and votes cast at its party conference in favour of withdrawal from NATO and the EEC.

"Let Labour's Orwellian nightmare of the Left be a spur for us to dedicate with a new urgency our every ounce of energy and moral strength to rebuild the fortunes of this free nation," she said.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Read this...

Why Muslim women should thank Straw by Saira Khan (The gobby one off the first series of the Apprentice UK)

At last a voice of reason and moderation in the debate.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I kinda like it... good concept and I was starting to hate the Tory torch which had severly dated.

Hat Tip: Private Eye

Are we there yet? - Tory Party conference bigger than The Beatles

Contrary to popular belief, the ensuing chaos at the Tory party conference was not due to the departure last week of CF National Organiser-in-Waiting Richard 'Action' Jackson.

Richard gallantly stepped into the breach to help out the hapless CCHQ minions who were obviously struggling with competence along with members of Her Majesty's Secret Service/ Bournemouth Police/the breakfast chef at the Suncliff hotel.

Thanks to the (unnamed) person who managed to half-inch my security pass from the secure zone and allow me to bypass the ensuing chaos (pictured)

Any suggestions as to who was the most important person stuck in a three hour queue? Use the comments section...