Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Umbrella and Tory Weather 

Looks like we will have somewhat wet periods on Polling Day. Years ago we used to wind up Tory tellers at poll stations by calling this 'Tory Weather'. General seeping misery for most which the wealthy could avoid.

Back when car owners were disproportionally Tories, really wet weather on polling day was reconed to be worth an extra 150 votes difference at least per ward in the Tories favour because of differential impact on the turnouts. The gallows humour of those awaiting the counts afer a rainy pollday included muttering the doggerel:

The rain falls down upon the Just
As on the Unjust feller
But less upon the Unjust
'Cos they've got the Just's umbrella.

And so muuter I having just put out several hundred eve-of-poll letters in a tight tango of 'heavy showers'. We shall see..

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Dunwoody political memories 

The political life of Gwyneth Dunwoody shows how someone can make a mark on the world, and get a deserved memory, without actually climbing to the top of the proverbial greasy pole.

It is to the discredit of the House of Commons that she was not elected to the Speakership at the last contest for that post. Who can doubt that she would have been a much better protector of the rights of ordinary MPs ( and the courtesies due to them) than the present incumbent.

And as she said in 2005, Parliament is the last defender of the rights of all citizens. We really miss having a speaker with that instinctive feel for the constitution.

She and her then husband Dr. John Dunwoody (at one time touted as a future Labour leader) were both elected to Parliament in the 1966 Labour landslide, she for Exeter and he for Falmouth and Cambourne. And thereby hangs a long political tail. John Dunwoody was made a junior minister, partially to dampen his critical backbench activities, and as a consequence was unable to give proper attention to his marginal seat. He probably knew he would lose - at the 1970 general election he failed to attend an important public meeting, sending instead an aide with a tape recording to play to the assembled voters. This rather reduced his standing in Labour circles and the comments on this possibly influenced his decision to withdraw from parliamentary politics, turning down the opportunity to become candidate for Plymouth Devonport. Selected instead, and victorious for Labour in 1974, was another political doctor, one David Owen of diverse later fame.

Gwyneth Dunwoody also lost her West Country seat in 1970, setting up a favourite political pub quiz question on husband and wife MP pairings. She stuck to the political route and in 1974 became the member for Crewe and a long-term thorn in the side of slippery political operators of all persuasions..

My condolences to her family.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

UK Chinese community and Tibet - well done Anna Lo 

The son of Ulster Assembly Member Anna Lo was arrested during the protests in London around the lympic Torch procession. And his mother is proud of him.

Conall Hon, a member of the 'Students for a Free Tibet' group, abseiled from Westminster Bridge holding a Tibetian flag. He said:

"As someone with Chinese and British roots, I feel strongly that Britain must take a firm stance against China's abuses in Tibet.
"If the Chinese government wants acceptance from the international community, it must immediately stop its baseless attacks on the Dalai Lama and start working
toward a meaningful solution to the Tibetan issue."

His mother said:

"I know that a lot of Chinese people here [Northern Ireland] are very patriotic about China... and, in fact, I fell out with some members of my family because my son was so active in Free Tibet.
But I keep on saying to members of my family that we are not against Chinese people - we are only against the Chinese government, the Chinese regime and its

The Alliance Party of NI Assembly Member is one of the highest ranking members of the UK Chinese community elected to public office. She shows us we need to engage with the UK Chinese community, making the point that supporting the Tibetian people is not an anti-Chinese conspiracy but something patriotic Chinese people need to be involved with as well.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The baleful legacy of Labour in Wales 

Simon Jenkins puts his finger on something very important in Welsh politics in this Guardian book review.

A mild leftwing bias renders some entries (in the encyclopaedia) far too gentle. No mention is made of the role of the British Labour party or British trade unionism in stamping on emergent Welsh nationalism in the 20th century.
I am not convinced that the 1979 referendum vote against devolution was against "a national future". It rather reflected the enervation of Welsh politics by generations of Labour leaders, who until 1964 refused Wales even its own secretary of state. This enervation continues in the suppression of Welsh local government, especially in north Wales, by the new Cardiff Assembly.

That looks a pretty good characterisation of traditional Labour practice in Wales, which basically aimed to marginalise the country to provide reliably Socialist lobby fodder in Westminster to outweigh the Tory bias in England and Scotland. (Older readers will remember a time when the Tories held 40 or so of Scotland’s then-72 Westminster MPs). But of course it wasn’t directed just against ‘Welsh Nationalism’ but also against the local self-help traditions of Wales that nourished Welsh Liberalism.

Jenkin’s aside is one quibble in an otherwise glowing review of ‘The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales’. Jenkins does not mention what the entries for Liberalism are in this work, though presumably there are some, as he notes entries for the Tories. Could some kind LibDem AM or someone on their research staff look up and report on these entries? At £65 a copy (OK £55 on Amazon or even £50 on Amazon if you want the Gwyddoniadur Cymru Yr Academi Gymreig ) it is a bit pricey for me.

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