Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Kent earthquake

I've just seen the news that Kent has been hit by an earthquake. (BBC News: 'Earth tremors' reported in Kent) The focus is Folkestone, but effects have been reported as far north as Herne Bay and it seems people in my old stomping ground of Canterbury have been woken up as well.

In true internet style, there are already Facebook groups being set up (both imaginatively entitled "I survived the Kent tremor"), running commentaries online (keith_london: Kent Tremor) and so forth.

So far there doesn't seem to be much major damage, although there are reports of explosions and worries about gas. The Channel Tunnel appears to have survived.

Friday, April 27, 2007

So *someone* will take on Brown

Labour left-wingers John McDonnell and Michael Meacher have announced that they will pool resources in the Labour leadership election to ensure one of them can be successfully nominated. (BBC News: Left rivals unite to target Brown) On the day Tony Blair does the most popular thing he can ever do, the two will meet and compare their levels of support amongst MPs with the less popular dropping out. From the tone of their recent statements about each other's levels of support (reaching a level of bitchiness normally associated with Judean People's Fronts and People's Fronts of Judea) it's more of a tactical admittance that individually neither can get the support needed for nomination rather than a great principled pooling of resources. It also opens up possibilities for the more Machiavellian Labour members to tactically support whichever they think it would be better to have in the contest, either to clip Gordon Brown's wings or to expose the left as hopeless. Given how effective Michael Meacher was as Environment Minister I do hope he's the one to stand, if only for the comedy value. (So there *is* an alternative to Gordon Brown)

Meanwhile the search for a serious challenger to take on Brown has still failed to yield results. As David Cameron asked at Prime Minister's Questions the other week:

Why is it that so many people who have worked so closely with the Chancellor think he would make a terrible Prime Minister, but they do not seem prepared to stop him?
(Hansard: 28 Feb 2007 28 Feb 2007 : Column 920)

Indeed anyone who wants to stop Brown has only one serious choice. And that choice is David Cameron.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Doctor Who - Survival

My apologies for not posting this one sooner but in keeping with tradition on this blog, here is my old review of the latest Doctor Who stories released on DVD from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide. For previous reviews, please click on the tags at the bottom.

Here is my review from the Doctor Who Ratings Guide of this month's DVD release, Survival:

A show that can survive

The original BBC series began in a London suburb and so it returns to another for its final story. Previously most stories set on contemporary Earth have been set either in a rural environment or around public buildings. Survival differs by taking the TARDIS to a London suburb and materialising outside someone's front door - a dream of many fans. Perivale has been run down by Ace throughout the previous two seasons and we get to see just why she hates it so much. Like many disaffected teenagers she comes from a place where there is little to actually do and so gets caught in a cycle of boredom and despair. No attempt at all is made to glamorise Perivale and so we get an environment that many viewers can truly relate to. Rona Munro's script is fast and packed, focusing heavily on the characters. The Master appears for the first time in three years, but is a far cry from his usual schemes to either conquer a planet or destroy the Doctor. Here he merely wishes to escape from the planet of the Cheetah People before he is transformed into one himself. Anthony Ainley gives a performance indicating that the Master is much older and wearier than when he last appeared, making for a fine contrast with the Doctor and adding to a sense of foreclosure.

The Cheetah People are not the most detailed race seen in the series but everything sufficient is explained about them so that their true level of threat becomes apparent, as do their origins. Karra gradually develops so that when she appears to help Ace and gets killed by the Master there is a real sense of loss as Ace sees her 'sister' die. The very concept of the Master and Ace and even the Doctor succumbing to the influence of the planet is strong and works as a metaphor for how easy it is to descend into savagery. This subtle parody of William Golding's The Lord of the Flies works and in the process challenges some of the ethics the series has advocated in the past, such as the need to fight.

One of the key themes of the story is where 'home' is for Ace (and in hindsight much can be read into the Doctor's 'home' from this as well). It is telling that when she does take the others 'home' she arrives by the TARDIS and at the end this is where she and the Doctor depart for, showing how she has changed, not only in this story but throughout her time since she first met him. The final monologue as the Doctor and Ace walk off into the sunset makes for a wonderful pause for the series, promising more things to come and making it clear that the show can go on.

This story predominantly revolves around the regular characters, with McCoy, Aldred and Ainley all giving good performances. Most of the rest of the cast are predominantly onlookers, though Julian Holoway (Paterson) gives a tough performance, making the character seem rough and ready despite being the story's symbol of authority. The production is strong as well, with the Cheetah People's planet looking realistic due to the excellent video effects and there are only a few shots where the trickery becomes noticeable, something that would have been exceedingly difficult to have sorted out back in 1989. Survival is a strong story that works both on its own and as a 'last adventure' for the series as it indeed was for some years and ensures that viewers are left wanting more. 9/10
Survival can be purchased from here.

For Conservative Democracy

Those who read ConservativeHome regularly may have seen recent discussions and campaigns about the way a number of important (and, it must be admitted, several not so important) matters are handled in the party, culminating in the row over the way candidates for the European Parliament are to be selected.

ConservativeHome has launched a campaign "to find candidates for next year's Board elections that will always vote to protect members' voting rights." (ConservativeHome's ToryDiary: It's time for a new Party Board) But I think it will not be enough to merely promote and hopefully elect the right people to the board this time. As I have already commented on that thread, I think things must go much further.

The entire system by which the Conservative Party is structured is badly anti-democratic. Only some of the Board is elected. Those that are are elected by members of the National Convention. The Convention in turn is a mixture of ex officio members and various appointees (the way the Conservative Future places are allocated has long been a mess). None of this gives the ordinary party member a direct say in the way the party is run.

Some of this may seem like naval gazing. But a party that is responsive to its members' needs will generate better morale, make better decisions and win more.

So let's take a leaf out of the French Union pour un Mouvement Populaire's book and look to direct internet based elections. Let's have both the Board and Convention directly elected. Let's make this a proper Party structure for the twenty-first century.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Are the Lib Dems facing their final point?

You got us into this mess!You got me out of it!You've got to hand it to the Liberal Democrats. Despite over a year of being allegedly led by Ming the Meaningless it seems that their eventual destruction is rooted in the Kennedy era. Charles Kennedy himself has not exactly been totally denying the possibility of a return to the leadership, but given the circumstances one has to wonder whether he has the judgement to lead a party, let alone present himself to the public pretending to be a potential Prime Minister.

Kerron Cross has details of how the Lib Dems are facing the disaster of not only having to repay a £2.4 million donation from Majorca based businessman Michael Brown (who famously declared that the party were "Muppets" for getting rid of Charles Kennedy) but also have to pay another £2.4 million fine. (KERRON CROSS - The Voice of The Delectable Left: Lib Dems To Go Bankrupt Due To Dodgy Donations? See also News: Lib Dems face ruin over £4m 'fine') With the party already £1 million in the red it does not have an easy £4.8 million to spare. Individual members could end up having to pay between £50 and £60 each.

In a way this is good news for Ming Campbell though. As well as helping to further discredit the possibility of a Kennedy comeback, it also makes yet another leadership election financially undesirable for the Lib Dems. So his gain is the party's loss. But the party remains in a mess and no court is going to fall for a Lib Dem bar chart "proving" they can't pay.

Once again the Lib Dems' sums don't add up. Kerron says it best: would be rather amusing that the Lib Dems would now be both economically and morally bankrupt.

Well it couldn't happen to a nicer party...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Do the French still guillotine Royals?

I'll admit to not having paid as much attention to the French Presidential election as I could have. One reason for this is my general lack of interest in or liking for France (give me Germany any day) and another, perhaps related, is that I stopped learning French over a decade ago and have hardly used the language ever since. That said, I have known who Nicholas Sarkozy is for a long time (see Political junkie test!).

Whoever wins will have a hard task filling Jacques Chirac's shoes. Whilst I've never been the greatest fan of Chirac, it is hard to deny that he has steered France on a course that has made her a far more influential country in the world today than the UK. Indeed I don't doubt there are many here who would agree with Chirac over Blair on transatlanticism. French domestic affairs are another matter - the country may officially regard everyone as "French" to the point of banning collecting statistics on ethnicity (which some right wing ideologues in the UK call for, as though it would solve all racial and cultural issues) but the riots and alienation make me wonder if this is where the UK will be in a few years' time.

Most of the opinion polls I've heard of seem to suggest that it's between Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, with the former triumphing in the second round. If François Bayrou could get to the last two then things will be interesting. And if Sarkosy finds himself in a second round against Jean-Marie Le Pen, as Chirac did five years ago, then Christmas won't have come early enough for him. And Le Pen is likely to do a lot better than polls suggest again, though I suspect left-wing voters will be more cautious about voting for the fringe elements also in this race. This in turn will make Bayrou's chances of overtaking Royal harder. The turnout has already surpassed the last election, again denting Le Pen's chances. But what direction will France take?

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Just a quick note on the football match near here last night. (BBC Sport - Football: West Ham Chelsea)

  • West Ham 1
  • Chelsea 4
A brilliant result for The Blues! Where are all the smug West Ham fans now?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

David Trimble joins the Conservatives

Now a party portrait!There was mounting speculation yesterday about David Trimble joing the Conservatives (BBC News: Trimble 'set to become Tory peer') but he's now confirmed it on his own website (Statement by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Trimble, Tuesday, 17 April 2007).

Trimble gives as his reasoning the settlement of the constitutional issues and a desire to be more involved in national politics. He also has this to say on the issue of giving Northern Ireland a greater say in UK wide politics:

I know from my experience in the Commons that a handful of opposition backbenchers rarely have enough influence. My move today will not change that. But my move draws attention to my view that the people of Northern Ireland will need to have more influence and can only really do so if they are more fully involved in the national politics of the United Kingdom. This would require a direct link to the major parties of the State, namely, in alphabetic order, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats. For parties are the life blood of British Parliamentary democracy.

This would mean some form of realignment bringing all the national parties to compete for the votes of the people here. Part of that realignment could be the recreation of the historic relationship between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists. But as the experience of the Northern Ireland Conservatives has shown, realignment cannot be achieved by one party alone. We need Labour and Liberal Democrats to be equally involved. Consequently I have not tried to persuade individual Ulster Unionists who intend to remain active in Ulster politics to follow me as individuals. But I do want to persuade the Ulster Unionist Party, and others, to integrate themselves more fully into British politics.
Whether his words will be heeded in all three parties remains to be seen, but it has become increasingly clear that right-centre-left politics requires all three parties involved. (A rare kudos to the Greens for at least bringing a serious side option.)

As for Trimble himself, I believe history will ultimately vindicate him. It is highly telling the way that all parties, especially the DUP, have moved over the years towards a system of constructive engagement. And the Union is far safer today than it was in past decades when the future of the province was deeply uncertain, when parties on all sides sought to end any attempt at progress increasing the attractiveness of an end to the Union. The principle of an internal settlement within the province within the UK has been accepted. As the institutions of government get into full speed, the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" position will set in. What was the Good Friday Agreement if not a victory for the Union?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Save us from the Liberal Democrats!

With thanks to Tory Radio: LibDems admit they are the CAUSE of crime this leaflet from that party:

Archbishop says "fight sin, not each other" - shock or not

There are times when one could be mistaken for thinking that the Second Coming has occurred, that all sin across this world has been swept aside and all the great problems facing humanity today have been rent asunder. Certainly the way some in the Anglican Communion have obsessed over particular matters in recent years leads one to wonder if they have fallen under this delusion.

So for once I am grateful to the Archbishop of York (normally I am sceptical about whether York should even have an Archbishop) for speaking out on this. (BBC News: Church 'fails' to spread message) Amongst his wise words:

The Church has not been very good at clearly spelling out what the message of Jesus is about...
It is a corporate failure of the Church, not actually doing the ministry of Jesus Christ out in the world.
All of us as members of the body of Christ need to do more.
What we should be about is telling people that God in Jesus has come in a human form, died, rose again and his presence, in terms of the spirit, actually transforms lives.
The trouble you have got is that there is a desire for self-fulfilment.
Unfortunately, as we see it in this country, it turns out to turn into self-assertiveness and very little self-examination and we end up with a culture which is very cynical, blaming somebody else, constantly endeavouring to put other people down.
Let's hope that the rest of the Church listens and starts focusing on the real matters, not finding reasons for people to not preach the Word.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

March on this blog

Once again it's time for the monthly look at who's been visiting this blog. For those who wish to see stats for earlier months you can now click on one of the labels at the end of this post. Comparisons are with the stats for February.

First off the sites most people come from:

  1. Google (-)
  2. Educationet Messageboard (RE-ENTRY)
  3. (+4)
  4. Mars Hill (+1)
  5. Facebook (+8)
  6. Wikipedia (-3)
  7. MyBlogLog (+1)
  8. Political Opinions (+2)
  9. Conservative Mind (RE-ENTRY)
  10. Labour - loyal - searching for renewal (-8)
Dropping out of the top ten are Young Unionists (at 11, down 2), Cally's Kitchen (at 14, down 10) and Cllr Robert Rams' Blog (dropped off the radar altogether).

Not too many surprises here - both re-entries can be attributed to some posts directly linking to and commenting about this blog, whilst Labour - loyal - searching for renewal was discontinued early in the month so drops a lot.

Then we have the top ten search engine requests that brought people here:

  1. northern ireland election predictions (NEW)
  2. what does your birthday say about you (-1)
  3. northern ireland election results (NEW)
  4. tim roll-pickering (-2)
  5. laura blomeley (-2)
  6. doctor who tonight (RE-ENTRY)
  7. 2007 assembly elections predictions (NEW)
  8. countrygirl ukc blogspot (NEW)
  9. sutton surrey map (-4)
  10. what harms the environment (NEW)
Unsurprisingly quite a lot of searches for the Northern Ireland elections - various factors have pushed this blog up the results list. Otherwise the usual mixture of new and familiar searches. There haven't been many strange searches, unless we count mustapha butt investigating an fly tipping offence.

Finally as ever we have a list of all the cities detected that people are in:


Thank you all for reading!


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