30 May 2007


Ok, I admit it. I am a slave to fashion and have jumped on the passing bandwagon that is Facebook, and consequently have been ignoring my blog. I guess I have been seduced by its easy interactivity neat design, not like the do-it-yourself chaos of blogger. But I doubt my facebook pals (some of whom are real friends) are terribly interested in my various ramblings so here is my composite entry on the current political scene.

Gordon Brown - it is all very weird. Why is he not yet PM? He can command a majority of the House of Commons - and he is de facto leader of the Labour Party. This slow handover is yet another constitutional outrage and pure indulgence. For what? So 6 non-entities can indulge in a deputy leadership contest. Surely a strange and pointless Labour Party quirk if there ever was one. In most political systems, a potential leader and deputy present a united ticket and stand together - e.g. President and Vice-Pres in the USA. What is the point in foisting a deputy on Brown who he might not even have in his cabinet - a deputy party leader on the backbenches would be the equivalent to the Tory chairman of the 1922 committee - influential, maybe, but hardly worth the national attention it is being given.

And like many others, I live in constant wonder every time Hazel Blears comes on television: how on earth did she make it past security - surely she is masquerading as an MP, otherwise standards are even lower than I feared.

On the opposition benches, and in the letters pages of the Daily Telegraph, there is much excitement about the "abandonment" of Grammar Schools. I recall that Maggie closed more of these in the 1970s than anyone else, but clearly this is a conveniently forgotten fact. Is anyone seriously considering turning the clock back to the old two tier state education system? Apparently so. There I was thinking that Cameron would have difficulty finding a policy on which he could make a stand in favour of progress and thereby add some substance to his image. Speaking of which, I have been told about half a dozen times recently that I look like him (wrong colour hair, of course, and I didn't go to Eton, oh no, actually I did), including by a wedding singer in Torquay. I guess I will have to keep out of trouble in case it hits his poll ratings.

15 May 2007

Second Life

I have never explored Second Life, and don't have any particular desire to do so, my first life is keeping me more than busy, thank you. However, two stories about this cyberworld recently caught my eye. The first was the law firm, Field Fisher Waterhouse, has opened "an office" in Second Life. The second was that the authorities are concerned that Second Life, and other such communities, are being used to launder money - i.e. "virtual credits" are bought and then transferred back into another currency, disguising their original source or moving the money around outside the traditional banking system.

I am not sure if the concern is that serious, given that in order to buy credits, the dirty money needs to be in a bank account in the first place, and therefore (in theory at least) the bank would have completed money laundering checks on it. However, law firms cannot rely on the fact that their fees are paid out of a bank account, they have to undertake their own "know your customer" procedures and other anti-money laundering checks. Quite how FFW is proposing to take on virtual clients is therefore beyond me - the KYC procedures practically insist that you meet your customers face to face - and not in a virtual reality world. I guess it is a nice marketing gimmick for FFW to show that they are down wid da kidz, but may be they should make it clear that they will not take on any "virtual clients" in the near future?

12 May 2007

22 hours in San Juan

Another trip to the Virgin Islands has resulted in a long journey home. Unable to catch any direct flights back to England from Antigua last night, we have routed via San Juan where we have spent the night before journeying onwards to New York this afternoon and then home on the red eye. It could certainly be a lot worse, but it is nonetheless a surreal experience to come from the simplicity of BVI - only 30 minutes away on a small turboprop - and then be confronted by a massive hotel/casino. The beach this morning, was however, very pleasant.

Seemed to have missed most of the outpouring of Blair specials in the papers, so another plus side, I suppose.

I will be back again in a few weeks... and so it continues.

07 May 2007

The SNP Question

Last week the SNP became the largest party in the Scottish Parliament by "the narrowest of margins". Apparently, this means the other parties which got the smallest number of seats must now decide whether or not to work with the SNP to form a coalition government. As I have made clear from my earlier post on the subject, I am not overly bothered by Scottish politics insofar as it has no effect on me or my life, but being a soft hearted Southerner, I would offer the following advice to the other parties, should they care to consult me:

The Liberal Democrats: You are clearly in a quandry. You realise that nobody who voted for you wants independence for Scotland as otherwise they would have voted SNP so you do not want to be seen to be allowing the SNP to get their way. However, you can hardly go back into coalition with Labour as they are clearly a busted flush and you would be blamed for putting them back into power, when only a minority of Scots wants them there. The solution is simple. Go into coalition with the SNP but demand that the promised referendum on independence be called immediately - get it out of the way early in the parliament. The voters will reject the proposition (assuming the ballot papers are pretty straightforward to fill in - even a drunken Glaswegian should be able to decide to tick "yes" or "no"), then you can spend the next three and a half years in power with the issue resolved.

Conservatives: OK, I realise that the SNP would probably prefer to be photographed en masse coming out of a swingers' club than to be dependent on Tory support to form a government, and vice versa, the feeling is no doubt mutual (although, after the Tommy Sheridan libel trial, I trust the analogy still carries weight in Scottish political circles). BUT.... Conservatives could form common cause with the Nats on one important question, and that is the inadequacy of the current Scottish constitutional settlement. On the basis that there is a Scottish Parliament and there is no going back, the Conservatives could work with the SNP to press for greater powers for it. This could be combined with a pincer movement by a Cameron led government in three years time, to enshrine these powers in law (via the Westminster parliament) and strip Scottish MPs in Westminster of the ability to vote in London on matters pertaining to England where those matters are reserved in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament. Probably too radical and the Tories and SNP would disagree on just about everything else so it would not be workable as the basis for a complete coalition, but it's just a thought.

Greens: Power! You know you want it. Now's your chance. Don't screw it up!

Labour: do everything possible to scupper the vote of a first minister, and force a new election. If you can't do better next time with Gordon Brown as your leader, then you really are in trouble.

I'm an uncle, again!

Over on Francesca and Georgina's blog, there is news of the newest arrival in the family - a second daughter for my brother and sister-in-law - and the sixth granddaughter for my father. Congratualtions to all...

02 May 2007

Hazel Blears - a worthy successor to Prescott

Newsnight last night contained a very funny interview by Paxman of Hazel Blears, Labour Party chairman (chairperson?), and wannabe Labour deputy leader.

Paxman asked Blears if she could remember when Labour were last more unpopular than they are now. "Probably in 1983" came the answer.

So there you have it, Labour are more unpopular now than they were in 1987 or 1992 - according to their Chairman, sorry, person.

I guess we'll find out on Friday morning. Fingers crossed.

01 May 2007

How to speed up terror trials

From today's Times, which reports that the recently completed terrorist trials cost over £50m:

"The trial was supposed to last six months, but began six months late and lasted for more than a year. During that year the court sat for only 35 weeks, with 7 weeks of timetabled breaks and 10 weeks lost to sickness and logistical problems. Barristers tried to have one juror discharged because he took so much time off sick. During Ramadan, the court sat for only 3½ hours each day because of concerns that the defendants would not be able to concentrate while fasting. The judge wanted to sit earlier, to make up for lost time, but one juror could not be in before 10.30am because of childcare commitments."

How about giving the court the power to allot funds to jurors to meet any reasonable expenses caused by longer sittings? How much time and money would that have saved? Only in the public sector - utter madness!