Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Match Point and Henley? 

OK so has anyone worked out when Andy Murray is due to play - I think he is on court on Thursday.

Let's hope he doesn't get involved in a desperate late evening five setter that grips the nation. Or if he does lets hope that the deep tennis enthusiasts are Tories.

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You can NOT be serious (as some old-time tennis player would have said).

They're still playing today's scheduled matches. Thursday's schedule hasn't been worked out yet.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gurka thoughts 

Great that Gurka veterans came to Henley on Sunday to help our by-election campaign. Sorry though that I missed meeting them.

My dad fought beside Gurka troops in the Malaya Emergency (so-called) in the 1950’s and when he left Malaya the Gurkas presented him with one of their famous Kukri knives, which I believe is quite an honour.

Britain’s treatment of these ex-Servicemen (in terms of pensions and of UK citizenship rights) is disgraceful and we as a party must continue the campaign to change this.

A little story from my Dads wars. He was responsible for training the Malay army and one day led out a troop to set an ambush for insurgents. This was a live war, remember not some kind of exercise. Anyway they located their ambush point and settled in, deeply camouflaged lying down, and waited. Time passed. Suddenly, my Dad said, a hand went over his mouth, his head was pulled back, a sharp blade pressed against his throat…. And a familiar voice said in pleasant tones “Ah, Major Sahib!”. The Gurkas, out on a parallel patrol, had detected the ambush, but not been able to determine whether it was friendly or hostile and had therefore checked it out in their inimitable and intimate fashion.

Let me tell you, having handled one, that you seriously seriously do not want to be on the wrong end of a Kukri. A skilled Gurka with a sharp Kukri can cut off the head of a bull with one blow.

But above all if you must have a war, having the Gurkas with you is a huge advantage and a military honour and privilege. And these are the people who after their service ended we have treated as disposable items on a spreadsheet. .

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Monday, June 23, 2008

The glorious summer light in Henley and Thame 

Coming back from the campaign centre at Thame this evening in a glorious balmy light with hot air balloons decorating the horizon. Campaigning in sunshine in these long days and light nights is super even for us moles preparing the leaflet shots.

In North-East Europe this is of course St Johns Eve and a major public holiday. In Lithuania for example there are big open air parties with bonfires and booze and traditions such as floating flowers in the streams to tell fortunes and many people don’t get to bed at all.

One tradition is that a mysterious magical fern flowers once a year at this time and young people go of into the woods in the short dusk time in search of it. You might think this is a way of referring to something else but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Anyway, no fern flowers in Henley (that I know of) and some really solid down to earth political activity rather than precarious flights. If you haven’t been and are remotely in reach why not give this campaign a try.

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Good Job! :)
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Not To Be Read Until After Thursday 

Seen lying around in a corner of the Henley Campaign Centre on Friday - a much thumbed copy of 'The Origin Of Wealth' by Eric Beinhocker. I am reading that too - though like the unknown owner of that copy currently no time to enjoy during waking hours. After Thursday perhaps survivors of the Big ByElection Push could share some notes - for example on Beinhocker's dismantling of the arguments of Milton Friedman using positions drawn from von Hayek...

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

42-Days uproar and thoughts on political courage form the USA 

An uS commentator thinks we are doig ratehr well fighting for our civil liberties in contrast to the supine attitude of many opposition Democrats in Congress.

The Glenn Greenwald 'SALON' column says:

"The sacrifices now being made by British politicians of all parties in opposition to expanded government detention and surveillance powers is, with a few noble exceptions, exactly what our political elite in the Bush era have been -- and still are -- too afraid or too craven to undertake."

Greenwald notes that Labour MP Bob Marshall Andrews

is now defying his own party leadership in order to support Davis' re-election bid, an extraordinary step for a Labour MP to take, given that Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown is the prime force demanding more government power

And on our own situation

Even more strikingly, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has announced that his party will not even contest Davis' re-election, preferring instead to support the Tory MP's defense of civil liberties even though it means sacrificing an opportunity to have his party take over Davis' seat.

(Greenwald's emphasis)

The contrast is with Congressional Democrats craven capitulations to White house pressure
to legalise spying on US citizens without a warrant.

So some people think Nick has got this right...

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The blowback for the Tories on the Resignation 

OK lets try to get a grip on what’s what. Might help to do a thought experiment – suppose the frontbencher resigning to fight a bye-election on 42-Days was one of our frontbench team. Say Chris Huhne. What would be the various reactions to this?

First off I suggest most party members would feel somewhat pissed off, even betrayed. Just at the point where the Labour government has made an utter and pig-headed prat of itself a massive smokescreen has come down on the key issue in question.

It would be seen as a stunning vote of no confidence in the leader of the party, and directly question the sincerity of the party’s official position on the detention issue.

It would be easy to make allegations of an unbridgeable legacy of bitterness from the last leadership contest.

The Resignation Star’s closest political friends would be embarrassed and defensive.

The party would find itself even more at the mercy of other people’s timetables and agendas than it does normally.

After the excitement and praise over the point of principle, other issues relevant to the politics of the Resignation Star would seep into peoples minds over the next few months – and how long will the by-election be delayed anyway?

What happens in the Resignation Star stands as an independent – would that free any party member to stand against him without penalty under party rules? The barrack room lawyers in the party would be in permanent session.

And what a wonderful united Party Conference the press would be expecting come the autumn, with the story being on how the party was wholly focussing on preparing the upcoming national elections. Er, possibly not.

Just imagine the uproar and bitterness we would be living through now, and what crowing would be coming from the direction of I*n D*l* and allied blue door commentators.

Just imagine ourselves in that uproar this morning, how we would be feeling.

OK so the position for the Tory Party is different… how?

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Haltemprice Hokey-Kokey 

So its to be a by-election. Now, for an election to take place, a writ has to be moved and voted on in the Commons. This is normally moved by the chief whip of the party that held the seat. So the Tories have controll of the timetable and convention (again) says the writ is moved within three months of a vacancy occuring.

If the vote goes against moving the writ (most unconventional) then it cant be moved again for some time in this session.

Following Nick's decision to abstain the party from this contest, there is no danger (for the Tories) in a Yellow Peril army working away in the seat if the by-election is delayed. So is there any incentive for the Tories to call the poll at once? Could it be delayed say until October or even later? Hanging David Davies out to dry as punishment for his eccentricity? Could Davies be left fuming outside Parliament until after the 42-day bill comes back from the lords and the matter runs into whatever sands are awaiting? Leaving him to campaign when the Single Issue is perhaps a little cold on the ground?

Or has Davies got a deal that someone (us maybe?) moves the writ at once, or whenever he feels it is to his campaigning convenience?

Just asking....


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42 days Pig Hoooo-eeey! 

Its Pork time on the banks of the Thames!

Over in the USA getting ‘pork’ (spending of taxpayers funds on local projects) for your district is an essential, even respectable, part of a Congresscritters job. They boast about how many millions they claw back in their re-election literature and if they didn’t bring in the money they would be out.

Members of our blessed Parliament don’t have the same tools as their US counterparts. Here, only a minister of the Crown can introduce a motion instructing how to allocate public funds. And in any case amendments to Westminster legislation have to fall within the scope of the broad purposes of the bill being considered as set out in the preamble. So MPs cannot add ‘riders’ to bills totally irrelevant to the main legislation but bringing localised benefits. In the USA Congersspeople do backstage deals with each other supporting someone else’s pet bit of local influence buying in exchange for support for their own. A million or so in support of a local roads programme inserted into a bill dealing with (say) the teaching or foreign languages to army personnel in exchange for support for the building of a technical school elsewhere would be the sort of thing routinely done in the USA.

But when a Westminster Parliamentary vote is close MPs have an opportunity to get a bit of backroom earmarking. And so it seems to have been with the 42-day detention vote.

P.G.Wodehouse lovers will recall the short story about Lord Emsworth’s pig the Empress of Blandings going off her feed just before the Shropshire Agricultural show. She is induced to eat when a young man with experience raising hogs out in the USA introduces his Lordship to the universal hog-callers cry to bring pigs to the trough.

Pig Hoooo-eeey!

His Lordship is appropriately grateful and backs the romantic liaison between the youth in question and one of his nieces (as I recall…) to the great consternation of the starchy aunts back in the castle.

So for a number of Labour MPs (and the DUP) the appropriate greetings as they wander through Westminster today might be a concerted cry of

Pig Hoooo-eeey!!!!!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama and the 'apostasy' claims - a dangerous thread? 

Well the statement is pretty unvarnished. In their Guardian comment article on ‘The Toxic Texans foreign policy doctrine will endure’ authors Thomas Lynch and Robert Singh say about a putative President Barack Obama:
“Before sitting down to tea in Tehran, at least one precondition Obama might consider making is establishing whether the mullahs believe that apostate Muslims, such as himself… should be killed”.

I was moved to send one of the authors this e-mail

Dear Robert Singh

Thank you for your
interesting analysis (with Thomas Lynch) published in the 'Guardian' comment column on 10 June.

Could you perhaps give a link or reference to a rigorous study showing that Senator Barack Obama was ever a Moslem thus giving himself the opportunity to become an apostate? If possible, other than your own writings.

I do note the amusing coincidence that one of the other articles published on the same Guardian page(on the subject of the TV programme 'Top Gear') quotes Roland Barthes’ argument that cultural myths develop through deceptive transparency in that "Myth... abolishes the complexity of human acts, it gives them the simplicity of essences ... (creating) a world wide-open and wallowing in the evident .. a blissful clarity". I have to admit to believing up to this point that the 'Obama as a (former) Moslem narrative' was one of those myths convenient to a particular set of arguments and I look forwards to discovering any challenges to my assumptions.



If I get a reply I will append it here.

But what do our LibDem Moslems make of this apostasy claim? Is there any way it could really have substance? And true or not if some over-excited person believes it and believes it needs lethal attention, this repeated casual use of the claim could have violent consequences.

I do also note that the book written by Lynch and Singh ‘After Bush: the Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy’ has won high praise from the likes of Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute (sometimes described in the US Liberal political sphere as the ‘Prince of Darkness’); Daniel Pipes (of the Middle East Forum) and John Yoo (Professor of Law at Berkeley University and possible the most prominent US legal scholar to argue that the current US administrations actions on indefinite detention and torture are legally justified). Maybe that shows that I am practicing guilt by association mythologizing?

Somewhere in Open Democracy there is a comment on this book by Fred Halliday which says

"...[P]erhaps of greatest importance, there is no evident wish in the US - whether in the political elite in Washington, or in the Democratic Party, or in the nation as a whole - to abandon US primacy and exceptionalism. The new president of 2009 will only in some degree alter existing policies. Washington will continue to want to run, if not control, the world."

So maybe we should read Lynch and Singh as a warning against over-romanticising what could emerge from an Obama Presidency?

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As far as I can tell, his father (Barack Obama Sr) was apostate, when he met Obama's mother he was already an atheist (possibly worse in the eyes of many an american voter...)

The biggest scandal about Obama's parentage should surely be the bigamy his father engaged in - he never divorced his first wife...
Obama should of course not be held responsible for the sins of his father.
No reply to my e-mail at this time...

Looking round the world of anti-Obama online postings, it seems that the Moslem Obama seekers have moved on from the failure of Barak Obama Sr to ensure his son was raised a Moslem.

The emphasis now is on Obama's time in Indonesia where his mother moved after marrying another Moslem, Lolo Soetoro.

Obama was educated at a Catholic school in Jakarta and later at a secular government school (so progressive in Indonesian terms that the female staff wore miniskirts). So much for the 'educated at a Madrassa' mantra.

However Indonesia has national identity cards and these include a category for 'religion'. It seems to be the common practice for Children automatically to be registered according to the stated ID card religion of the father, or legal father figure, so Obamas ID card status was 'Moslem'.

The one question which could possibly still be outsanding is whether the young Obama ever accompanied his stepfather to the Mosque at one of his infrequent big-occasion attendences and if so whether the young Obama ever said and understood the implications of the first prayer of any service, the recitation of the first sura of the Koran, known as the Fatiha. If he did so about the age of ten (the age when he left Indonesia) it is just possible I suppose that some Moslem legal schools would assume this to be an attestation of faith. Comments?

Obama's half-sister by the way has married a Chinese-Canadian. Her children are Buddhists.
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