Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Congratulations Nick Clegg!

This has made my day!

Congratulations Nick and commiserations to Chris Huhne who, it is fair to say, ran a strong campaign.

At long last the Liberal Democrats have a vigourous new leader who gives us a real chance of transforming Britain into a country reflective of it's liberal and Liberal instincts.

British politics is now about to get very, very interesting indeed.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Take It Easy Guys!

Today, sadly, has seen time run out in the negotiations over the status of Kosovo.

Regrettably it has not been possible for a deal to be struck which would satisfy both sides. This is sad but unfortunately inevitable given the strength of feeling that exists on both sides.

It would be wonderful to dream that Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo could share a future together but sadly there is such a gulf between both sides as can readily be seen on a visit to Mitrovica. The River Ibar might as well be an ocean. There is genuine fear on both sides of the ethnic divide and frankly a considerable amount of misinformation.

I enjoyed meeting people from both communities when I had the privilege of working there this summer. The gulf between the groups was very clear at the start of the training I gave but I felt that it was beginning slowly to close.

I can understand the frustration of Kosovar Albanians. They have been through hell to be frank. I can also see the point of view of the Serbs in Kosovo who feel that a part of them has been taken away with the loss of Kosovo. Milosevic must bear a huge responsibility for his appalling treatment of the Kosovar Albanians leading to the terrible violence and enduring hatred that exists. He escaped justice for his crimes but he failed Serbs who have to bear the stigma of his crimes.

What will now happen is inevitable but I plead for the Kosovar Albanian leadership under Thaci to show good sense and restraint. A hasty unilateral declaration of independence will not serve the interests of anyone. It will create violence, play into the hands of extremists and invitably the losers will not be the politicians but the ordinary people of both communities.

Just take it easy guys!

Happy Birthday Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Today, 10th December, marks the 59th Birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sadly in our world today, the Declaration is observed more in the breach but it provides a call to action for all of us on this planet who believe in the principle that human rights are universal and fundamental and should not be compromised.

For the next 30 days I plan to publish an article of the original declaration in both English and Chinese with a short personal commentary on what the articles mean for me. I am happy to publish comments made as long as the author is prepared to name themselves or can provide me with a legitimate reason why they should remain nameless (idiots/trolls need not apply).

The source of the texts is the United Nations Department of Public Information.


Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly,
Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

TP: An interesting marrying of both negative and positive freedoms. T.H.Green would be proud as would a number of British Social Liberals such as Beveridge and J.M. Keynes.

Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

TP: Noble and valid sentiments. Alas, how often do we see such a statement ignored. South Africa for years, Zimbabwe (both before and after colonialism), Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan and especially Dafur, China?, the Soviet Union and now Russia is moving backwards. This article holds the world's leaders (including our own) up to higher standards.

1948 年 12 月 10 日, 联 合 国 大 会 通 过 并 颁 布《 世 界 人 权 宣 言》。 这 一 具 有 历 史 意 义 的《 宣 言》 颁 布 后, 大 会 要 求 所 有 会 员 国 广 为 宣 传, 并 且“ 不 分 国 家 或 领 土 的 政 治 地 位 , 主 要 在 各 级 学 校 和 其 他 教 育 机 构 加 以 传 播、 展 示、 阅 读 和 阐 述。” 《 宣 言 》 全 文 如 下:
序 言

鉴 于 对 人 类 家 庭 所 有 成 员 的 固 有 尊 严 及 其 平 等 的 和 不 移 的 权 利 的 承 认, 乃 是 世 界 自 由、 正 义 与 和 平 的 基 础,

鉴 于 对 人 权 的 无 视 和 侮 蔑 已 发 展 为 野 蛮 暴 行, 这 些 暴 行 玷 污 了 人 类 的 良 心, 而 一 个 人 人 享 有 言 论 和 信 仰 自 由 并 免 予 恐 惧 和 匮 乏 的 世 界 的 来 临, 已 被 宣 布 为 普 通 人 民 的 最 高 愿 望,

鉴 于 为 使 人 类 不 致 迫 不 得 已 铤 而 走 险 对 暴 政 和 压 迫 进 行 反 叛, 有 必 要 使 人 权 受 法 治 的 保 护,

鉴 于 有 必 要 促 进 各 国 间 友 好 关 系 的 发 展,

鉴 于 各 联 合 国 国 家 的 人 民 已 在 联 合 国 宪 章 中 重 申 他 们 对 基 本 人 权、 人 格 尊 严 和 价 值 以 及 男 女 平 等 权 利 的 信 念, 并 决 心 促 成 较 大 自 由 中 的 社 会 进 步 和 生 活 水 平 的 改 善,

鉴 于 各 会 员 国 业 已 誓 愿 同 联 合 国 合 作 以 促 进 对 人 权 和 基 本 自 由 的 普 遍 尊 重 和 遵 行,

鉴 于 对 这 些 权 利 和 自 由 的 普 遍 了 解 对 于 这 个 誓 愿 的 充 分 实 现 具 有 很 大 的 重 要 性,

因 此 现 在, 大 会, 发 布 这 一 世 界 人 权 宣 言 , 作 为 所 有 人 民 和 所 有 国 家 努 力 实 现 的 共 同 标 准, 以 期 每 一 个 人 和 社 会 机 构 经 常 铭 念 本 宣 言, 努 力 通 过 教 诲 和 教 育 促 进 对 权 利 和 自 由 的 尊 重, 并 通 过 国 家 的 和 国 际 的 渐 进 措 施, 使 这 些 权 利 和 自 由 在 各 会 员 国 本 身 人 民 及 在 其 管 辖 下 领 土 的 人 民 中 得 到 普 遍 和 有 效 的 承 认 和 遵 行;

第 一 条

人 人 生 而 自 由, 在 尊 严 和 权 利 上 一 律 平 等。 他 们 赋 有 理 性 和 良 心, 并 应 以 兄 弟 关 系 的 精 神 相 对 待。

TP: Perhaps Beijing would like to consider the meaning of these words in the run up to 八八 and meet their promises?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Kosovo and the Russians

Sadly it seems that the West has now "lost" Russia. Putin's shameful sham election strongly points to a slide to new authoritarianism and the trend over the past few years of his Presidency suggest that he will establish a strong "new authoritarian" block with the Chinese out East.

Russia has also been stridently opposed to the Ahtisaari proposed settlement in Kosovo which would lead to a "supervised independence" under the UN. Frankly it has undermined any possibility of a shared future for Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in the province through it's strident support of the unsustainable Serbian position which would only consider "autonomy" within Serbia for the province.

Far from preparing Serbs in Mitrovica and other parts of northern Kosovo to accept the need to fight for a shared future with equal rights under the law, Putin has helped to stoke continued mistrust between the two communities (during my time in Mitrovica as a trainer the Serb participants were anxious about crossing over the bridge from Northern Mitrovica due to security concerns) and helped to create a climate where renewed violence is a real possibility this month.

To then discover that Putin has decided to dispatch an 11-ship aircraft carrier group to the Mediterranean suggests that Putin is prepared to back the Serbian intransigent position with force. Why else should they be there?

I enjoyed my time in Prishtina and Mitrovica in Kosovo working with both communities and genuinely hope that they will be able to avoid violence and create a shared future where ALL citizens are able to participate in society and the legacy of hatred is laid to rest.

Russian macho politics does not help and Putin needs to be stood up to by the West, both for his sham election (which requires diplomatic sanctions of some kind) and regrettably it is increasingly looking like we will need to do so militarily as well.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Vote Early, Vote Often.....

In case anyone was wondering (or perhaps worrying), yes, I have already cast my ballot for Nick Clegg.

I urge you all to do the same to give the Liberal Democrats that young, charismatic leader that Liberal Britain so badly needs.

Far from playing dog whistle politics to the activists, Nick has been focused outwards on talking to the liberals of Britain who currently would like to support us but don't yet. As our leader, Nick Clegg will enable the Liberal Democrats to build a liberal coalition to strengthen civil liberties at home, challenge disadvantage and rebuild Britain's international reputation abroad.

I urge all members who are still considering who to support to think long and hard about whether we wish to continue where we are, talking to ourselves, or start to face outwards and widen our horizons.

Some people closer to home would do well to take note that continuing on their current path is unsustainable.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Thanks Darling!

What a lovely early Christmas present courtesy of HMRC and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Tonight I joined the 25 million other British Citizens who have had their data exposed to risk of ID fraud.

The personal security of my daughter has also been compromised which I also find totally unacceptable.

And these people want our biometric data as well!

This has to be the death of the madcap ID cards idea. Who on earth would want to trust this Government with their data after this? I for one, will not.

If this Government pushes it to the limit then yes, I am prepared to go to prison to protect my right to control my identity. In my view, identity is a property right that people should assign. It is not the property of the State and compulsion to provide it is an unacceptable form of nationalisation that must be resisted.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Huhne Has Gone Too Far

In 20 years of membership of the Liberals or Liberal Democrats I have never seen anything as appalling as Chris Huhne's conduct today and given some of my recent personal experiences, that's saying something! The same old nonsense has been wheeled out again regarding Nick's position on education, the health service and Trident.

Chris' conduct on BBC1 today has damaged the Party's image and, should he hopefully lose the leadership election, has consigned him to the backbenches. How on earth does he expect Nick Clegg to trust him after he pulls this kind of stunt?

It is very clear that Huhne knew exactly what was in the document as he then brazenly went through it line by line.

The fact that he allowed such a document to go out with such a title shows precisely why he is unfit to be leader. If he can't manage his staff how on earth can he expect to be trusted with the leadership of our party? The short answer is that he can't.

This is the second time that Huhne has allowed negative comments against Nick to go out and then said "oh, sorry, I apologise".

We don't allow these kind of antics in other internal elections and nor should we in leadership elections.

After today, Huhne deserves to be thrashed in this leadership contest good and proper.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

My Thoughts on Tonight's Question Time

Here are some of my impressions of tonight's Lib Dem Leadership Question Time.

Chris Huhne's negative campaigning has come back to haunt him. David Dimbleby lashes Huhne for the "Cameron Stunt Double" quotation pretty quickly which puts him on the defensive.

Chris is wrong over Trident. To my mind, his negotiating position would throw all the cards out of the window. I also think that he badly underestimates Russia under Vladimir Putin. Russia has increasing receipts from oil and gas which it is using to rebuild it's military.

Nick has also realised that Russia is using it's oil and gas supply to put pressure on former Soviet states such as Ukraine. Nick is right to suggest that the EU has to be firm and hold Putin to account. Nick's experience as an international negotiator with the European Commission shows through very strongly and given the re-emergence of Russia, the rise of China and the increasingly multipolar nature of the world he would be better placed to deal on international political and economic relations.

Nick Clegg has real passion for the underpriviledged and for the mismanagement of public services and this is where he scored massive points tonight. His motivation to get into politics is very similar to that of so many of our activists (including me). Nick's passion will come across well to voters who do not currently support the Liberal Democrats. Chris perhaps came over as too "Mr Great CV" and therefore a bit patrician and remote.

Huhne tries "dog whistle" politics on Nick again by attacking David Law's views on health insurance versus NHS. Regrettably for Chris, Nick has emphatically denied supporting (are you reading this Jo Hayes!) health insurance.

There was no nonsense coming from Chris over vouchers. Nick clearly laid out his views on the pupil premium and there were no vouchers in sight.

Despite what looks like a Huhnite plant to paint Nick as "Cameron-lite", Nick Clegg clearly set himself apart from Cameron for the same reasons I got involved in Liberal politics. Disgust at the wasteland that was created in the wake of Thatcherism and a determination to change politics for the better.

I think Nick came out ahead purely and simply as he was able to relate his experience directly to issues that concern the majority of voters, but I would say that wouldn't I?

Slaying the Vouchers Dragon

It's been a very interesting evening's blogging.

Jo Hayes once again repeated the outlandish and discredited claim on behalf of Chris Huhne that Nick Clegg supports vouchers for education. Dredging up the words of journalists (one of whom has made it very clear that he added the word "vouchers" and not Nick) she claimed that the words of journalists were enough to be evidence that Nick supports vouchers. One of them was from that well-known Lib Dem loving newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Jeremy Hargreaves had already taken this claim apart here

Unfortunately for Jo and others who have tried to claim that Nick supports vouchers (probably some of the most unpleasant bit of "dog whistle" style politics in this leadership contest so far) when you look at Nick in his own words there is absolutely no voucher in sight.

If you look at the pamphlet that Nick wrote with Richard Grayson back in 2002 again, there is no voucher in sight. In fact, Nick's support for the idea of a "Pupil Premium" which is expounded in the pamphlet pre-dates official party policy on the subject .

Liz Barker has now intervened in annoyance at the Huhneite tactics and put Jo right in the comments to her post.

So, could the Huhneites cut out the "dog whistle" nonsense and get back to a real debate about our leadership contenders real positions based on what they say themselves.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Yahoo! Forced to See the Light

After it's lashing by the US Congress, Yahoo! has finally been forced to apologise and compensate two Chinese cyber-dissidents, Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning.

It is a pity that it has taken the US Congress to shame Yahoo! into this aboutface but it is welcome nonetheless. I'm also glad to see that they will be creating fund to provide legal aid for online dissidents. I hope this sees the beginning of the end of the collaborationist mentality of internet companies and a recognition that freedom of speech and internet freedom of expression are global freedoms that should not be compromised.

Hmm... I could say something further but I won't until I've seen a certain report.

Oh Come Off It Chris!

Not satisfied with slurring Nick Clegg by claiming he supports vouchers in education when he doesn't and using Chris Clarke to branch Nick a Tory (quickly withdrawn once challenged but those comments should never have appeared in the first place) we saw yesterday yet another dubious claim from the Huhne camp. This time Chris claimed to be the first through the 1000 barrier.

Oh really? So why has the Clegg campaign already got 1500 supporters and rising?

I recognise that Chris is a good economist and has many admirable strengths but does he have to be economical with the truth as well?

Monday, 12 November 2007

Wars Never End

Regardless of my overt support for Nick Clegg, as the brother of a serving soldier I was absolutely delighted to see that should he be elected as our leader he will be taking the issue of the treatment of our servicemen and women seriously through the establishment of a Military Convenant Commission.

Remembrance Sunday should not be merely to remember the dead but also to remember the mained and injured (both physically and mentally) who have returned from Britain's military engagements over the years. Nick has rightly identified that our treatment of armed forces personnel, present and past, is pretty shoddy (and that includes ex-Gurkhas as well). I can only condemn the Government for not allowing injured personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan to parade past the Cenotaph yesterday. Shades of Vietnam there.

The reality facing our Armed Forces today include accommodation that is often not fit for purpose, appropriate and adequate kit scarce (the Americans call our troops "Lendmies" rather than "Limies" these days) and welfare and medical care often fails to come up to the mark.

Tonight's Channel 4 documentary "Forgotten Heroes: The Not Dead" scratches the surface of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is an absolutely shocking statistic that more Falklands veterans have taken their own lives than were killed in the conflict.

We all need a shake to face up to our responsibilities to those who, in effect implement the "muscle" part of our foreign policy. The conflicts of Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to claim their victims until such time as we do our bit for those who did their bit.

Our Military Covenant Commission, I hope, will begin to shake the consensus of convenient ignorance regarding the consequences of military conflict for our service personnel that has pervaded our politics for far too many years.

Friday, 9 November 2007

For The Record

Having seen the quotation regarding myself in the Folkestone Herald yesterday I would like to put the following on record:

I did not disagree with the stance taken by Liberal Democrat and some Conservative Councillors in leaving the Council Chamber at the last full council meeting of Shepway District Council and my support for the Firefighters in this town is unequivocable. That should be patently obvious from my last post dated 2nd November. I strongly believe that our District Councillors of whatever political party are there to do a job - stand up for the interests of the people of the district. I believe that the proposals on the table from the Fire Authority will endanger lives in Folkestone and the wider district and should be rescinded.

However, being a reasonably fair-minded person, and given that Gordon is one of my neighbours in Sandgate Road with whom I am on friendly terms with even if we do disagree politically, I wanted to hear what he had to say on the matter. I still cannot understand what Rory Love thought he was achieving through his stance on the Lib Dem motion laid down to council. If he had further information then it should have been shared with the Council there and then.

I think that my relationship with some elements of the Shepway Liberal Democrats is a matter of public record as being somewhat poor. So much so, that rather than remain a member of a local party that could allow its officers and others to treat me in such an appalling fashion I asked permission from the Executive of the Bromley and Chislehurst Liberal Democrats if I could rejoin them.

They very kindly agreed and this has enabled me to continue to play an active role in the party that I have been an active a member of for just over 20 years. I still am a Liberal and could not imagine myself in any other political home despite some of the rumours that some have tried to put about to smear my name in the district.

I would like to publicly thank those Shepway Liberal Democrat (some of whom are now non-members due to their disapproval of the conduct of certain Executive Officers and others) and Liberal Democrat members from further afield who were supportive of myself and my family during and subsequent to events in May. Qun, Anna and myself are very grateful to you for your friendship in what has been the saddest set of events in my political life.

For the record, I am still awaiting the outcome of a regional investigation into the goings on surrounding my resignation as Parliamentary Candidate. Once that investigation has reported I reserve the right to make a public statement as/if I see fit.

As for my comments on Ming, my more recent views had been more supportive as I had seen his performance as our former Leader improve. I was saddened by his going but I did feel that it was regrettably inevitable. I had a personal issue with Ming which coloured my view of the early part of his Leadership and it need not be aired here.

My view is that Ming should have challenged Charles Kennedy for the leadership when Paddy Ashdown stood down in 1999. Last year was perhaps too late for him. For the record, I wanted Nick Clegg to stand last year. He refused and so I came to support Chris Huhne.

I am supporting Nick in this leadership election as I believe that he is best placed to reach out to people who are liberal and Liberal but who are currently not voting Liberal Democrat. I respect Chris Huhne, admire his intelligence (if not always his judgement on some issues - Trident and "Clarkegate" being two examples) and am sure that he will hold a higher profile position on the Frontbench subsequent to the Leadership Election.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Stop the Cuts to Our Fire Service!

I am appalled to learn tonight that some members of Conservative Controlled Shepway District Council failed miserably to stand up for the district and are effectively acquiesing in the decimation of our local Fire Brigade.

Utterly shameful.

The proposals on the table from the Kent Fire Authority will cost lives. God help us should Operation Stack be in place on the night that a serious fire occurs.

Rory Love et al., stop filibustering and stand up for the district and the people who elected you or resign your seats and allow them to be taken by people who will.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Getting the State Off The Back of The Poorest

Further to my post about the importance of raising literacy and numeracy amongst the most disadvantaged in our society another aspect of British society that worries me, particularly as a former academic economist is the disproportionate burden of taxation on the poorest in our society.

The last budget was a travesty in effectively redistributing the tax burden from the wealthiest in society to fall mostly on middle income Britain but also disproportionately on the poorest members of society. This shift in taxation burden was supposedly mitigated by the Working Tax Credit (WTC) but the WTC system is such a nightmare to negotiate since it has been notorious for overpayments being clawed back leaving poorer working families even further under pressure. This adverse publicity has been a deterrent for some of the neediest families to claim their WTC.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies analysed the impact of the budget and it showed that marginal tax rates facing the lowest paid are at about 70%. This is way too high. I agree with Nick Clegg that tinkering with Capital Gains Tax misses the point.

The main focus on taxation policy should be reducing the burden of income taxation on the poorest and that includes local taxation as well. The Council Tax is regressive. It should be scrapped in favour of a local income tax. Government attention should be turned to getting more of the poorest in our society out of the taxation system completely by a combination of raising the personal allowance to a sensible level and reducing the bottom rate of income tax. Shifts towards green taxation should also achieve this aim.

Let's get the state off the back of the poorest!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Literacy and Numeracy Education the Key

I've been doing a bit of catching up on TV viewing recently thanks to the excellent 4OD service. I watched the recent Dispatches programme on illiteracy amongst our kids in this country with shock and disbelief that so many were getting left behind.

I have to declare an interest as a parent of a four year old who has started Primary School this September but I'm frankly shocked that anyone could think that anything less than 100% literacy in the 21st Century in a system with 11 years of compulsory schooling is acceptable.

I'm going to sound like a bit of an old git here but as a University Lecturer in the 90s I couldn't believe the number of my students who were unable to cope with fairly straightforward numerical calculations without resorting to the use of a calculator. The impression I have is that things have probably got even worse with many adults innumerate.

If we don't get these basic things right then we have little chance of implementing much else of a Liberal agenda in this country. Education has remained the key in the 21st Century for liberating the potential of all our citizens as much as it did in the 19th Century where Liberals (and Conservatives, to be fair) supported the ideal of increasing access to education to wider sections of the population. The evils of poverty, ignorance and conformity still need to be addressed head on even now.

Nick Clegg has touched on the issue in his platform, mentioning the idea of a "Pupil Premium" which has the potential to reduce class sizes where it is needed more, in the most disadvantaged areas of our country. I can't help but think of the kids who live on some of our most deprived estates in Folkestone East and Harbour Wards and wonder how many of them we are equipping to have a better life in the future. Possibly not too many yet.

I can't see anything from Chris Huhne on this issue but I suspect that he would also have something to say, or I would certainly hope so even if he isn't the candidate I am backing in the leadership election!

The most appalling thing is how we have allowed our nation to get into this position. What kind of future we are storing up for ourselves when disadvantage is perpetuated and what are we going to do about it?

This is most certainly not a teacher bashing post. The teaching profession has been forced to cope with considerable change and impossible odds in very difficult circumstances over the years. Reduced funding and dilapidated buildings were the legacy of the late 1970s and 80s. Teachers have been held in low esteem by many and frankly I think many of them deserved a medal for continuing their vocation against appalling odds.

My desire is that the Liberal Democrats will not become co-conspiritors in the politics of educational failure. If we are to liberate our citizens then we must ensure that all of them come out with the basic equipment to participate in our society. Too often we have focused our attention on further and higher education whilst not paying enough attention to the fact that too many young adults had no hope of accessing either because they can't read, they can't write and they can't add up.

We need a new crusade to crush the root cause of so much disadvantage and crime, we need to commit ourselves to stamping out illiteracy.

Friday, 26 October 2007

At Long Last

As someone who has been inspired by the Liberal legacy of Lloyd George I am delighted that at long last he has been recognised with a statue in Parliament Square. The contribution that Lloyd George made to laying the foundations of the welfare state far outweight his demerits in other areas and deserve to be recognised.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

上海、西安 欢迎!

同志你们好!欢迎读我的网络随笔, 但是我想你们不会喜欢我的自由心思!




Monday, 22 October 2007

Anonymous Blogger Beware

Someone needs to be worried. Using the cloak of anonymity does not protect you from the full fury of libel law.

You IP identity can be revealed even if you post anonymously.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Hello Beijing!

I notice that today the Great Firewall of China has been breached for one and that I've had a visitor to the site from Beijing. Welcome to my blogsite.

I hope that many more Chinese citizens will be able to join you and see what other foreigners have to say about goings on in China and our concerns about the human rights situation and the need for it to dramatically improve. If you think I'm hardline on human rights you should read what others of my colleagues are saying. Some are already calling for a boycott of the 2008 Olympics on human rights grounds.

I haven't gone that far but believe that you should be held up to higher standards as you promised you would in 2001 when you won the right to host the games.

Instead I suspect that it might be used as an opportunity to refuse me a visa in the future but we shall see.

Hu Said That?

As I predicted earlier this year, it appears that Chinese Communist President Hu Jintao has maneovred key members of the Shanghai Clique (supporters of former President Jiang Zemin) out of the Politburo.

Vice President Zeng Qinghong is gone and along with him other Shanghai Clique members Luo Gan and Wu Guanzheng.

Hu is close to scoring a major home win in his battle against the remaining Jiang/Shanghai faction members and the influence of both the former President and his protoges from Shanghai is seriously on the wane.

Hu now needs to be careful not to overplay his hand otherwise he may find that he will effectively split the CPC into two parts which ironically could have the effect of hastening the arrival of democracy.

I've been slightly surprised at the reaction of the press to this. If I could see this coming why on earth couldn't they? It has been patently obvious that Hu had become exasperated at the blocking tactics of Jiang in letting him take up the reins of power and had decided that the only way in which he could effect an enduring legacy for himself would be to take on and remove the Shanghai clique.

Hu isn't interested in balancing the competing interests of different factions inside the CPC because he is a conviction politician with more powerful older backers. Jiang was only seen as a "safe pair of hands" and was not the first choice candidate of Deng Xiaoping after the Tiananmen crisis to replace Zhao Ziyang. Jiang's legacy is therefore compromised and Hu knows it.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Nick Clegg's Speech in Full

Nick Clegg got his campaign off to a flyer today with a speech which quite rightly urges us to be bold, take risks and reach out to more people who are liberal with a small l.

Here's the speech he made today in full:

"I would like to say a few words about my plans for the future.

But before I do, I would like to pay tribute to my close friend and colleague Menzies Campbell.

Ming is a man of integrity, honour and decency. Over the years he has also shown himself to be a man of impeccable judgement and extraordinary political courage.

He led the opposition to the Iraq war. He stood firm against this government's criminal disregard for our hard won freedoms and rights.

He has done our country a great service.

He stabilized the Liberal Democrats in a time of crisis. He made us more professional. And he gave us a clear sense of direction and purpose.

He has done our party a great service too.

But we now need to look to the future.

If the Liberal Democrats are to change the tired old pattern of British politics, we will have to be bold. We will have to move outside our comfort zone, and take more risks than ever before.

The stakes are high.

Three party politics is in the balance. For two years now, the Liberal Democrats have been caught up in internal self-analysis. We cannot go on testing the patience of the British people.

We must come together now and make a long-term commitment to British liberalism.

We either step up or we will fall back for good.

The leadership election gives us a great opportunity.

An opportunity to talk – plainly and directly – to the British people. An opportunity to be an outward looking party again.

There are millions of people in this country who share our values, but don’t yet give us their votes. These are the people we must be talking to in the weeks ahead.

I want us to extend our reach, and broaden our appeal. I want us to take our message to every community, every home, every family.

And that is why today I am announcing my candidacy for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

I'm delighted to be doing it here in Sheffield. It's my experiences here as a local MP - and as an MEP just down the road in the East Midlands before that - that drive me on as a politician.

Like most people of my generation, I wasn’t born into a political party. I am a liberal by choice, by temperament and by conviction.

And when I talk to the people I represent, I become more convinced every day that only liberalism offers the answers to the problems they face.

A generation ago, many people just voted the way their parents and grandparents had voted. British politics was rigid and debate was narrow.

The left offered social justice. The right offered economic competence.
Everyone lined up on one side of the debate or another.

But today our society is more diverse and our politics more fluid.

Political allegiances are less fixed. People are less class conscious and deferential.

The new generation of voters just doesn't believe there are only two options, only two ideas worth having.

The change is already happening.

In 1951, 2 percent of people voted for a candidate who wasn’t Labour or Conservative. In 2005, it was thirty two percent.

The Liberal Democrats now have the opportunity, once and for all, to end the oppressive grip of two-party politics.

We can break apart the two-party system that has narrowed debate for so long.

And give a voice to the millions of people who feel they don’t have a voice in British politics at all.

We should be proud of the progress we have made. But we are not yet where we need to be.

I want the Liberal Democrats to become the gathering point for everyone who wants a different type of politics in Britain.

A politics that begins by giving power to people, their families and their communities.

A politics of people, not systems

Communities not bureaucracies.

Individual innovation not government diktat.

I believe that is the British way.

We are a nation with a strong sense of fair play and social justice. An instinct to protect the environment for future generations.

We are suspicious of arbitrary power, impatient with bureaucracy and wary of government interference.

We have always put our faith in the power of ordinary men and women to change our world.

Those are the best instincts of the British people. Those are the liberal instincts of the British people.

And they are the instincts that, under my leadership, will be at the heart of the Liberal Democrat vision for Britain".

All I can add to this is a loud hear, hear!

Naturally this is an overarching vision. I'm looking forward to seeing Nick and his policy team putting lots of bold, specific policy ideas forwards in the areas of: human rights (domestic and international); international relations and development; environmental protection, the economy; the relationship between the state and the individual; and a vision of how the Liberal Democrats will be organised to give ourselves a chance to deliver our distinctive policies.

A great start and I hope that this will continue.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Please Remember Burma

Before we all get totally focused on the leadership contest please spare a thought for the oppressed pro-democracy demonstrators and monks in Burma, some of whom are being subjected to appalling torture and conditions in prison. At least one person has died in detention.

I hope that the leadership candidates will raise human rights concerns in the UK and internationally as part of their campaigns to raise the awareness of the British public.

The regime in Burma is an absolute disgrace and I hope that international pressure will ultimately achieve genuine change and push the country and the path of democracy and human rights for all.

Amnesty International have declared next Wednesday 24th October as Free Aung San Suu Kyi Day. "On Wednesday the leader of the National League of Democracy in Burma will complete her 12th year under house arrest. Amnesty International will be using the day to call for the UN to demand her immediate release, and also the release of all prisoners of conscience in Burma".[Hat tip Duncan Borrowman for the last paragraph].

Nick Clegg To Formally Put His Hat in the Ring

Nick Clegg will be launching his campaign in Sheffield on Friday according to press reports.

Great news! Now let the contest begin!

Go, Nick, go!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Makes Me Want to Study Shakespeare!

A little trip down to Folkestone Library and strangely enough I was drawn to a copy of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar".

In the light of events this year I think it rather an appropriate read.

Antony's speech in Act III, Scene 2 is truly a great one:

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Ceasar was ambitious.
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here under the leave of Brutus and the rest,
- For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men -
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransom did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You did all see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause;
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me.
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me".

How Apt

Simon Hoggart has excelled himself today in The Guardian but not perhaps in the way he intended. This quote is very apt:

"At Mafia funerals it's always the capo who ordered the hit who makes the most fulsome speech over the coffin - about the departed's wonderful qualities, his integrity, his patriotism, his love of family".

I think that Ming made the decision in consultation with others. I think he had several scenarios in mind and spoke to a number of people about what he should do. I don't think that he was assassinated.

Monday, 15 October 2007

The Dangers of Talking Amongst Yourselves

The other very interesting news story today, from my point of view, was Hu Jintao's speech at the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of China. Jonathan Watts made yet another excellent analysis in The Guardian. If only all of the reporting in that paper was up to his high standards!

Unfortunately El Presidente appeared on the one hand to recognise that increasing democracy is important but then fluffed it by making it quite clear that "We must uphold the party's role as the core of leadership in directing the overall situation and coordinating the efforts of all quarters," and "we must uphold the party's role as the core of leadership in directing the overall situation and coordinating the efforts of all quarters," he said. This strongly suggests that there will be no move towards genuine multi-party democracy in China for the foreseeable future.

Instead the usual tired old formula of "inner-party democracy" was wheeled out yet again. So, more of the claimed 73 million members of the Communist Party will have a say? Really? My experience of meetings in China was always one of watch and agree with the leader and just regurgitate what the leader says.

The Chinese Communist Party is worried about corruption undermining it's legitimacy. But rather than recognise that it is the monopoly of power which is the root cause of corruption and the fact that the Communist Party tries to police itself through the corrupt policing the corrupt, it is carrying on reinforcing the same rotten power structure.

The only way in which political movements are able to move forward are through accountability to the wider citizenry and a recognition that a small group of people do not have a monopoly on the truth. This is a lesson that could be learned closer to my home as well. It is critical to avoid the temptation to talk amongst yourselves otherwise your grasp on power will be shorter and weaker than you hope.

By failing to take on the real elephant in the room and show true leadership Hu Jintao has confirmed his status as a monochrome President who will not stand out in the annals of Chinese political history. Had he been bold and recognised that alternative centres of power are essential to ensure the sustainability of legitimacy and power then he might well have gone down in history. It is my prediction that it will be either the Sixth or Seventh generation of leaders who will grasp this reality and think the unthinkable and do the undoable before they are forced to do it by an increasingly impatient general public.

Hu Jintao has not strengthened the Communist Party at this congress. He has weakened it by failing to properly liberalise China when he had the authority and stature to do so.

Nick Clegg - Stand Up Please

I'm saddened to see the resignation of Ming Campbell but not completely surprised. He did do a great deal to strengthen the internal party organisation but unfortunately there was an image issue. I hope that whoever succeeds him in the forthcoming leadership election will have the wisdom to give Ming the Foreign Affairs brief in which he clearly has always excelled.

I'm going to declare my support for Nick Clegg who I think had what it took 18 months ago and I believe even more strongly has what it takes to lead our Party.

Go, Nick, go!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Hu Jintao - You Don't Get Away That Easily

I've focused my recent postings on Burma where clearly something desperately needs to happen to force the Military regime to it's senses or better still, see it fall from power.

China must be very happy that the world's attention is turned to Burma as it seems that the wave of repression that I predicted several months ago surrounding the CPC Congress is coming to pass according to this Human Rights Watch report which I received today.

The world needs to raise pressure on Beijing to clean up it's act as well. I'm not sure that I'm quite at the point that Colin Ross is at of calling for an Olympic Boycott but if the kind of repressive behaviour that we are seeing in China at present continues then I will certainly have to consider whether to join those voices who would want an international boycott.

It is sad to note that so often with the regime in Beijing they seem to take half a step forward by releasing a dissident or two and then a step backwards.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Free Burma!

Immediately after my call for sanctions I received this comment which I want to publicise and encourage my fellow bloggers to participate.

Free Burma!
International Bloggers' Day for Burma on the 4th of October

International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.


Burma - Sanctions NOW!

I'm getting increasingly frustrated at the British Government's failure to impose serious and significant sanctions against the Burmese Regime (those pathetic and odious "Nazis" in the military regime don't deserve the title of "Government").

Waiting for China to sort the problem isn't going to work. We've stood by for the past 20 years (and the Tories are as guilty as Labour has been on this issue) and let the regime literally get away with murder. It is now time to crack down hard on the Junta and help bring an end to this odious stain on Asia.

Come on Gordon Brown. It's long overdue for Britain to have an ethical foreign policy once again. Start getting tough on the Rapists of Rangoon.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Burma - Tiananmen Square By Proxy?

The Chinese Government must act to restrain the Burmese Dictatorship which has apparently started shooting protesters. They've propped up an unpopular military dictatorship for too long. It is time they sent in an envoy who can assist the transition to a government led by the democratically elected President, Aung San Suu Kyi and bring to an end the embarrasing and odious military dictatorship.

Failure to do so and to stand by and allow a massacre in Burma will be another 6 4 by proxy which the world will not ignore, forgive and forget in a hurry.

President Hu Jintao should know what he's got to do.

Folkestone - Sloppy and Sneering Reporting by the Guardian

I've read with interest today the report by Guardian arts correspondent Charlotte Higgins on the inaugural Folkestone Triennial.

Sadly her article is loaded with anti-Folkestone prejudice which really does little to further the cause of the town in regenerating itself. It is also far from accurate and leaves me asking the question, why did you bother? It also recycles a lot of copy that my Old Harveian comtemporary, well-known Philosopher Julian Baggini wrote about three years ago.

My recollection of my childhood was that many people used to come to Folkestone to spend time on the beaches and for a short getaway during the 1970s. It certainly wasn't as simple as passing through the town to get a Ferry to go somewhere else as Charlotte asserts.

The sneering assertions continue:

Folkestone smells of fish and chips. Er, perhaps a little area around Tontine Street does but frankly there is a hell of a lot more of the town than just Tontine Street.

Roger De Hann via the Creative Foundation has been working on regenerating the town for at least three years now. It's not only just started.

The other sneer relates to the claim that there are a large number of teenage mothers in the town. Perhaps there is a significant number clustered in certain parts of East Ward and parts of Harbour Ward in Folkestone but the way the article is phrased would suggest that the place is teeming with teenage Mums.

The use of the term "slum" is hardly appropriate either. That would suggest that there was a lot of substandard housing around Tontine Street. The reality is that there were a significant number of business properties that had become empty and somewhat rundown which the Creative Foundation has done a great job of renovating.

We then have to put up with ludicrous nonsense of Folkestone being compared (negatively) to Venice? What the fcuk is that all about? Mention of the Royal Military Canal [WHICH IS IN HYTHE!] is used as the tenuous hook for this stupid section.

Charlotte Higgins, you've been Fisked!

If I were your journalism teacher I would ask you to come and see me after class. A mostly shoddy piece of work.

I hope we will see an apology to the people of Folkestone in your pages soon.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Ming's Speech Flicked My Switch

Bravo to Ming. That passion that I saw him display at the last South East/Central Regional Conference came through strong and clear today.

A good strong Liberal speech which should give food for thought to one or two people closer to home. We should practice what we preach.

I think the heat has gone from Ming to where it truly belongs, on the faltering performance of David Cameron and the increasing pressure he is going to come under to retreat back to the "core" vote which has constrained and undermined all his predecessors post John Major.

The trouble for the Tories though is who is in the wings? Boris Johnson? You have to be joking. I loved the Ming quip, "The Blondest Suicide Note in History". They are stuck with DC but the brand is rapidly going past it's sell-by date and may be distinctly stale come the General Election.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Who's Under Pressure Now?

Well, as you would have known if you had seen the whole of my BBC interview last Sunday, I predicted that the shine had come off David Cameron and he was in trouble (sadly this bit got erased by the editor).

Seems that this has been backed up by the Guardian poll which shows his net disapproval ratings are higher than Ming's. Once again the media were looking in the wrong direction for someone to have a go at.

I predict (at the risk of my neighbour Gordon Williams putting a brick through my window!) that before the end of the year there will be a strong lurch back to the right to shore up the "core" vote.

Observing the Lib Dem conference from afar, it does seem interesting that two potential post-Ming leaders are being talked up, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne.

Although I voted for Chris Huhne during the last leadership election and find a lot in Chris to admire I'm a strong Nick Clegg fan and think that he would have a combination of the youth AND depth to be able to challenge anyone on the Tory benches and to take on anyone who replaced Brown. The next Lib Dem leadership contest, whenever it happens (which will be later rather than sooner), will be a very interesting one indeed.

Monday, 17 September 2007

No, I'm Not in Brighton

In case any one was wondering (probably not - but you never know), I'm not in Brighton and will not be showing my face down there this week at the Lib Dem Conference.

Although I still retain a strong interest in politics and Liberalism, I am taking a bit of a sabbattical and working on building up my training business and spending quality time with my lovely wife and daughter.

Today was a rather special day as my little girl, Anna, started at Primary School. Qun and I really enjoyed taking her to and from school today and she looked a pretty picture in her school uniform.

With all due respect to our leader, that beats a Ming Campbell question and answer session anyday.

I wish all my friends at Conference well. I miss you and I hope we shall see each other again in the not too distant future.

I just need some more time to get over what has been THE most frustrating and appalling year in my political life - one I should never have experienced at the hands of fellow so-called Lib Dems. Given the recent fractious history of liberalism in this district it perhaps didn't come as a complete shock to outside observers and others who were Lib Dems once.

I take comfort in the fact that the other 19 years were enjoyable and happy ones and I've made quite a few friends along the way. Thanks to my optimistic disposition I am looking forward to the future and know that the best is yet to come.

I shall work on developing a more interesting style of writing which I hope will make my political and personal memoires an interesting read some day in the future. Then, perhaps, my side of the story can finally come out unfettered and undistorted by spin, the imagination of local journalists and editors and the need for internal procedures and protocols to work their way through.

2008 still cannot come a day too soon.

Yours Truly on BBC1 South East

Your's truly made a couple of brief appearances on the South East section of the Politics Show last Sunday.

Click on the link
here to see it all again.

I'm sure that some people in the Party and beyond will be ecstatic to see that I am very much still alive and kicking politically.

By the way, Jack Devine, you haven't got a clue what you are talking about. We've been way ahead of the other two parties for years on the use of the internet and modern communication techniques. That's why we've always punched above our financial weight in campaigning terms both in paper-based literature and in terms of e-campaigning.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

President Kennedy

I strongly welcome the news that Charles Kennedy is to be the new President of the European Movement and will be going out there to make the case for Europe. Something we should be doing as a whole in the Party.

I'm also pleased to hear that the European Movement will be having a formal relaunch. I certainly will want to get involved in that locally.

Gladstone and the Treaty

A reminder of an inspirational quote by a Liberal leader in a bygone era:

"What do I understand by the Liberal principle? I understand, in the main, it is a principle of trust in the people only qualified by prudence. By the principle which is opposed to the Liberal principle, I understand mistrust of the people, only qualified by fear". W.E.Gladstone. Speeches and Addresses Delivered at the Election of 1865 reproduced in Brack and Ingham (Eds.) Dictionary of Liberal Quotations. Politicos (1999).

We do well, as Liberals, to remember this principle and to have the courage of our convictions at all times.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

There Should Be A Referendum on the EU Treaty

I'm adding my voice to several Lib Dems who believe that there should be a referendum on the latest EU Treaty.

I'm a declared Europhile that recognises that although there are significant issues with the way in which the EU operates which certainly need to be reformed, the pooling of sovereinty with our fellow EU partners has certainly helped Britain to punch above it's weight on a range of international issues.

We need to go out and sell the benefits of the EU to the British people. For too long now we've allowed the crankies in the Tory Party and UKIP (amongst others) to bash on with their narrow, xenophobic vision of the EU and the role of Britain in the world.

Some of these guys live trapped in a golden era that never existed where Britain is still a huge power in the world. They've successfully poisoned the political atmosphere in the UK and stereotyped the EU as some kind of bureaucratic monster. Frankly we've been timid and have let them get away with it. It's time to get back out there again and campaign FOR the EU and for the Treaty.

Supporting a referendum would be thoroughly consistent with the political platform I stood on as Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Birmingham Perry Barr where we supported a referendum on Maastricht. I don't really see what has changed from that point in time.

I think Anthony Hook and others are right, and sorry Ming, I think you are wrong on this one.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Better - But Still Too Many

I'm pleased to hear that the number of executions appears to be falling in China(although I am always sceptical of figures issued on "sensitive" subjects by the Communist Regime - they don't have an impressive track record). I genuinely hope that China is gradually weaning itself off the death penalty.

If only the US would take leadership on this issue and abolish the death penalty. Then it might look less hypocritical when criticising the Chinese Communist regime's human rights record.

Titan Rain - Oh Really?

Strange claims are surfacing that elements of the Chinese "Peoples Liberation Army" (an Oxymoron if ever there was one given the PLA's performance around Tiananmen Square in 1989) have targeted British Government computers.

There has been wide speculation for years that certain ultra-nationalist elements of the PLA have wanted to engage in "asymmetric warfare" against the US. Indeed, the military approach of the PLA has always contained a guerilla approach to combat against a larger enemy. This was deployed effectively during both the Chinese Civil War, against the Japanese (although a recent biog of Mao has cast doubt that the Red Army did much fighting against the Japanese during the occupation of China from 1937-1945) and would have been deployed as part of a "People's War" strategy against both the US during the Korean War and the Soviets in 1969 had there been an invasion.

I agree with those who comment that the claims appearing in the media appear to have little credibility. Had they been credible then at the very least I would have expected to see the Chinese Ambassador getting a pretty big and public flea in his ear from the British Government and the Chinese Military Attaches being sent on a plane back to Beijing.

I would also have expected the British Government to have imposed economic sanctions against the Communist regime as well.

None of these events has happened so I can only be truly sceptical of the claims.

That said, there are some serious headbangers amongst the Chinese military, some in high positions and we should be vigilant that they do not gain the upper hand when the Chinese Communist Party loses its absolute grip on power as certain elements of the Red Army tried to do with the collapse of Soviet Communism.

My analysis is that this is good old fashioned right-wing anti-communist propaganda which deflects from the core problem in China. That core problem is that the human rights record of China is not matching the promises made to the IOC in 2001 and that pressure and potentially sanctions should be applied to encourage Beijing to both ratify the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and release all political prisoners.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Let Candidates Be Candidates Part 2

A wealthy candidate might even want to look at these two articles....

Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

Let Candidates Be Candidates

Anthony Hook has raised a very legitimate concern about the partial gagging of Euro Selection Candidates. It is utterly absurd that candidates are not able to state where they disagree with an incumbent MEP on a policy issue or where they might take an alternative approach.

I'm getting worried about the drift of the Party at the present time towards some kind of control freakery. For goodness sake we are supposed to be LIBERAL DEMOCRATS.

LIBERAL = standing up for freedom of thought and expression.

DEMOCRAT = supporting pluralistic democracy.

We risk looking like hypocrites when we say one thing externally and don't practice what we preach internally. I think Anthony is also right that Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights is being flouted - reproduced below:


Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

I want to know what the candidates standing in the Euro selections think. I don't want to be a member of a party where pluralism is conveniently dropped to spare the blushes of a few MEPs.

It is morally wrong the way in which some selection rules have favoured incumbents. When the Euro selections are over the Party should develop rules that allow GENUINE choice through a level playing field.

I joined the Liberals because they were different and they believed in Liberal values of openness, pluralism and tolerance. Somewhere along the road these core values are being eroded.

For goodness sake let us have genuine debate, be proud of the debate and let candidates be candidates.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

The Lights Are On But No One's At Home - DG Trade Get It Wrong

The decision by DG Trade to continue to hold in place a tariff on Chinese energy saving light bulbs is a foolish one.

It seems that only German light bulb company Osram wanted to keep the tariff. I hope that the tariff will be lifted and soon. It makes no sense for the European Commission to keep a tariff in place when they are trying to encourage European consumers to save energy.

It is also bad economics.

I hope that the tariff will be voted down by member states within the month.

The BBC have more information here.

Thanks For Reading

I would like to thank all my regular readers for the interest you showed in my post "My Political Future". I suspect that some of you were unwilling readers wondering if I was going to break my personal "Omerta" concerning recent events. I'm sure that Don Liberali would approve of my stance so far. The upshot is that the post made number 41 in the Golden Ton on Lib Dem Voice.

I haven't finished writing about my 20 years in the Liberals and Liberal Democrats and I still reserve the option to "spill the beans as I see them". But then, I might get a visit from the Don or perhaps a lawyer representing a certain worried local party Chairman with a goatee who doesn't like blogs too much.....

Thank you one and all!

Beware the Ides of October

Yesterday saw the announcment that the 17th National Congress of the beloved Chinese Communist Party will begin on 15th October.

I'm sure that the next 6 and a half weeks are going to be an absolute barrel of laughs for Chinese dissidents, journalists and foreign reporters whilst the paranoid apparatus of the State tries to keep the lid on simmering unrest related to rising food prices and corruption (both petty and serious) by local government officials.

Like the 16th National Congress, this one is going to be a very interesting one to watch. I expect Hu Jintao to strenghthen his grip on the Communist leadership at the expense of the remnants of the Shanghai Faction. I predict that Vice-President Zeng Qinghong amongst others is set for a fall.

Hu Jintao has disappointed all of us who thought that Jiang Zemin was illiberal and that somehow he would prove to be a breath of fresh air. He is even more stifling on the human rights front than Jiang and even less charismatic.

The most important outcome of the Congress will, of course, be who is going to replace Hu Jintao in five years time. We should see the next generation of Chinese leaders emerge. Let us hope that they are more colourful and more liberal than their predecessors.

Honourable Mention

Duncan Borrowman was the winner of the Inspirational Chinese Quote of the Day competition on this blog (actually, miserable lot you are, he was the only entry). Therefore he receives the Honourable Mention advertised. I'm skint at the moment, so no major cash prizes or any such things at present.

Duncan's winning entry was "I'd rather die for speaking out,
than to live and be silent" Fan Zhongyan.

Pay more attention at the back of the class in future.....

Nanny Knows Best in China

When I studied Chinese Language, Business and International Relations with Sheffield University (by distance learning as I was in China at the time) we started with a fascinating course on China and Society. One of our main coursebooks was by Tony Saich "Governance and Politics of China" which is an excellent introduction to Chinese politics (if perhaps a little bit in need of revision now post-Jiang Zemin).

One of the themes which sprang out at me and frankly angered me was how Chinese Government officials always somehow presume to know best (does that seem familiar fellow Liberals?). In putting this thesis to the test on a number of occasions in my discussions related to Small and Medium Enterprise Development policy in Jiangxi Province I often found that rarely did Government officials speak to their own local businesses and find out what they needed when framing policy, they would prefer to import solutions from overseas. They treated local businesses with comtempt.

In effect, Government Officials in China would treat the very people they are supposed to serve (so much for "为人民服务") as children. This is what Saich describes as the "infantisation" of the population. This comtempt for the intelligence of the ordinary Chinese citizen has its roots in the Republican era. Even Sun Yat-Sen was prone to it.

Unfortunately this infantisation process continues today and relates to the internet. People in China are incapable, it seems, of working out what is "good" for them, so they have to have an internet police to protect them from evil influences on the internet such as (sharp intake of breath):

"Websites that incite secession, promote superstition, gambling and fraud".

Presumably that means any website that supports Taiwan's, Tibet or Xinjiang's independence, Falun Gong (which has been ruthlessly suppressed) and probably a range of non-approved Christian sites, bookmakers and online poker and other sites etc.

Apparently Chinese citizens lack the maturity and intelligence that we Westerners have to determine for themselves what they can and can't see.

The BBC has more information on this here which is just as well really since Chinese citizens are also not allowed to read the news sections of the BBC website.

The Chinese Government is continually trying to keep the freedom of information that the internet brings under control to maintain it's weakening grip on power. It is our responsibility to see to it that they ultimately fail and the Chinese people learn the truth surrounding 64, corruption and other human rights abuses going on in their country.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Yahoo! Is Sued For Collaboration in Chinese Human Rights Abuses

I personally welcome the news that Yahoo! is being sued by the World Organisation for Human Rights on behalf of the families of Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao. Report from the Guardian here.

I genuinely hope that their "not our problem" attitude is duly punished. They collaborated by turning over information to the Chinese authorities which they knew would have resulted in the persecution of particular individuals.

I await the results of this suit with interest. Should bring a whole new meaning to Corporate Social Responsibility inside Yahoo!

I hope WOHR wins and Yahoo! are made to pay a stiff price for their moral cowardice.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Fidel Castro - Dead or Alive?

Miami is apparently full of feverish rumour that Fidel Castro is no longer with us. There were no photos of him on his 81st birthday on 13th August this month which is apparently unusual.

A report in the Observer here.

Viva Cuba Liberdad!

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Meanwhile in Cuba Are Things Starting to Improve?

It will no doubt shock regular readers of this blog to discover that I'm no big fan of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist regime.

In stark contrast to the situation in China, the human rights situation appears to be slowly improving in Cuba even if it is far from perfect. Raul Castro seems to be taking advantage of his elder brother's infirmity to "liberalise" (I use the word cautiously) Cuba both politically and economically.

According to this report by Rory Carroll of the Guardian, one fifth of Cuba's political prisoners have been freed this year. It's a small fraction of the overall number but it perhaps marks the beginning of political progress.

I hope that the leadership in Cuba will go further as Castro Major appears to be entering his twilight years. I'm concerned to hear though that they are looking at Vietnam as the model for "reform".

Let us hope that the good news about Cuba continues and that the United States responds in a positive fashion to significant political changes.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Yet Another Chinese Communist Human Rights Outrage

Jonathan Watts has reported today that Yuan Weijing was detained at Beijing Airport and her passport revoked when she attempted to travel to the Philippines to collect a human rights award on behalf of her husband, Prisoner of Conscience, Chen Guangcheng. Further information here. The report suggests that her mobile phone was also confiscated.

I'm delighted to see that the British Embassy are on the case and are raising these cases of human rights activist and journalist harassment by local police and turning out to give moral support.

The way this is all going sanctions of some kind are going to have to be applied to get Beijing to sit up and realise that they can't go on treating people like this. Yuan Weijing has committed no crime for which she has been tried and convicted. This is not Rule of Law this is Rule by Law at best and arbitrary detention at worst.

Amnesty International Up the Pressure on Beijing

I had an e-mail today from Amnesty International highlighting their campaign to improve the human rights situation in China. Put simply, their campaign intends to hold the Beijing regime to the promises that were made in 2001.

Amnesty have published a twelve point plan which can be downloaded here.

The highlights of this plan are:

1. Putting in place measures to significantly reduce the use of the
death penalty as steps towards full abolition of the death
penalty in China (I think similar pressure should be brought to bear on the United States as well).

2. Take concrete steps to bring all forms of detention in China
into line with international human rights law and standards,
including measures to uphold the rights to fair trial and
prevent torture.

3. Ensure that human rights defenders are free to carry out their
peaceful activities in line with the UN Declaration on Human

4. End all censorship of the Internet in China which constitutes a
violation of the fundamental human rights to freedom of
expression and information.

There is also a more detailed report on human rights in China which can be downloaded here.

I have to admit to myself (at the risk of becoming VERY unpopular in my own home) that unless things start to improve over there on the human rights front I'm going to have to start agreeing with those who would call for a boycott of the Games. I would then lobby our leadership and front-bench to back similar calls.

I don't want to go down that road but given the propaganda misuse that is being made of the Games by the Chinese Communist Party and their clear failure to honour the commmitments on human rights that were made in 2001 I'm getting closer to that tripping point. It's up to the Communists to start realising that they now live in a global village and metaphorical "wife beating" isn't acceptable anymore. There is already enough anger over their conduct regarding Sudan. The treatment of their own people is far from acceptable as well.

Beijing can make a positive start by releasing all Prisoners of Conscience including:

  • Bu Dongwei

  • Ye Guozhu

  • Chen Guangcheng

  • Huang Jinqiu

  • Shi Tao

  • Yang Tongyan

I wish that my Liberal Democrat friends would start taking the human rights in China issue more seriously. It should discomfort us all as Liberals that a huge number of our fellow citizens in the world are daily denied basic human rights. This should be seen as an affront to our international vision of human rights for all.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Inspirational Chinese Quote of the Day

This quotation pretty much sums up what I believe. Honorable mention on this blog to the first person to post the correct translation in the comments section.

The Great Chinese Human Rights Crackdown Continues

Jonathan Watts of the Guardian appears to have an exclusive tonight. Yuan Weijing, the wife of jailed Chinese dissident and human rights campaigner Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) (who was imprisoned for exposing illegal enforced late term abortions by local government officials in his hometown of Lingyi, Shangdong) has apparently been placed under house arrest by the Chinese authorities thereby preventing her travelling to the Philippines to collect a human rights award on behalf of her husband.

She hasn't broken any laws and she has all the valid paperwork apparently so there should be some serious pressure on the Chinese Government to allow her to go.

The award is the Ramon Magsayay Award for Emergent Leadership. This link provides more information.

I demand that Yuan Weijing be allowed access to and from China. She has committed no crime and should not be treated as a criminal.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Ashley Mote, MEP for La La Land Should Resign

I've just taken another look at the report by the BBC of the conviction of Ashley Mote MEP on 21 counts of fraud. I then thought I would take a look at his website and found this bizarre statement:

"As is now widely known, the jury in my court case returned 21 guilty verdicts and four not-guilty.

"My legal team is already working on an appeal against the convictions. I am told this process may take some time. Meanwhile, I am advised to say nothing more about the case itself.

"However, and immediately, my legal team has asked me to assemble independent evidence of the contribution I have made over recent years to the restoration of the right of the British people to govern ourselves.

"They are especially interested in evidence of my activities on behalf of the electorate of South-East England since my election to the European Parliament in 2004".

Here's my comment as a voter in the South East:

Look Ashley, you've falsely claimed benefits and effectively ripped the British taxpayer off. You've been convicted. The odds on you clearing your name in the face of overwhelming evidence in a British court (not a European one) should convince you that the game is up.

For the sake of the electorate of the South East of England - GO NOW!

20 Years A Liberal - A Walk Down Memory Lane Part 3

Nice to get mentioned in dispatches again on Lib Dem Voice even if it is suggested that I'm becoming a bit of an old codger! Youth is wasted on the young.

Part 2 focused on the General Election and local elections in Birmingham where I sadly failed to make history. It wasn't the end of the matter for me though that year. I still kept on going as an activist helping to get the leaflets out around Perry Barr and helped others in Kingstanding and around the houses to have a go.

Before going on, defective memory that I have, I had forgotten that my first taste of by-electioneering had happend in 1990 at the Mid-Staffordshire By-Election where we tried to get Tim Jones elected (widely seen as the best candidate and certainly a lot better than Sylvia Heal the appalling Labour identikit candidate).

I remember visiting the by-election with Grant Williams of Walsall fame. The power station at Rugeley was such an appealing view! Grant and I went and did some leafleting and a bit of canvassing during the course of the by-election but it was fairly obvious that it wasn't going to be a Lib Dem gain.

1992, far from knocking the stuffing out of me, filled me with a terrible resolve that I would keep on going until I was successful. I have always remained convinced that Liberalism has so much to offer the British people and I have never lost that belief.

1993 was a non-election year and Ray Hassall was up for re-election in 1994. Unfortunately I had to get a job and started applying for academic jobs. I was fortunate to get a lecturing post at Staffordshire University in economics but this necessitated my moving to Stafford for a while whilst I worked in Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent. After my first marriage, I moved to Warrington and commuted from there. It was then that I got involved again in the political scene.

I became Vice Chair of Warrington local party and began campaigning with David Earl initially. The skills in focus production that I had gained from working with Tony Slavin, Ray Hassall, Jonathan Hunt and Kevin McCarthy came in very handy as David and I and later Peter Walker began to campaign around Burtonwood Village and the Westbrook and Callands parts of North Warrington (the bit that used to be in Lancashire before 1974). We had to cover the bigger area first as it was one big ward. With the advent of the unitary authority the Burtonwood ward was split into Burtonwood and Westbrook and Callands. This was a bit of a relief for us as Burtonwood was as Labour as it comes. Westbrook and Callands was mainly new housing and looked promising territory for the Liberal Democrats. However, we hadn't reckoned on the untimely demise of John Smith, the Labour leader and the rise of New Labour.

Votes that would traditionally have gone to us went to Labour. Ironic really as the Labour candidates were about as Old Labour as you could get. It also didn't help that poor David seriously hurt himself a little bit before the election in 1995 and yours truly had to do a fair bit of the leafleting himself (shades of Oscott Ward there).

We put up a good fight but came bottom of the poll behind the Tories which was a disappointment. After I moved out of the area, David kept plugging away at it and now the ward seems to be becoming solidly Lib Dem (seems to be the story of my life!).

I also did a bit to help Phil Clarke who was the Lib Dem PEPC for Cheshire East during the 1994 European Elections. It was a modest breakthrough for the Party with two seats, but still a disgrace as it was fought under FPTP when everyone else in the EU was using PR.

Unfortunately my job was coming to an end at Staffs Uni in 1996 and so I applied for a job at Durham University and started commuting between Warrington and Durham. Living in both places with a demanding job didn't really leave me much time for the politics and although I had considered reapplying to be on the list of approved candidates (the 1992 list had been scrapped - there were too many mad, bad and sad parliamentary candidates for the comfort of the party) I didn't really feel that I could in the circumstances I faced. My father's untimely death in September 1996 not long after I begun working at the University of Durham also had a profound effect upon me. More than I realised at the time.

I therefore didn't play a particularly significant role during the 1997 General Election much beyond delivering a few leaflets and going out to vote. 1997 also saw my role at the Small Business Centre at Durham University change and I got increasingly involved in working in Central and Eastern Europe. This was interesting in that it gave me exposure to a number of different countries and their politics in a short space of time. On the other hand it meant that being away so much reduced my active involvement for a time in British politics.

I enjoyed the '97 General Election result as much as any Liberal Democrat. At long last we were starting to become a more significant voice in British politics. I have to say though that I am deeply disappointed that Paddy Ashdown ever thought he could do a coalition deal with Blair. My experience of Labour in the North West of England, and particularly Warrington Labour Party had shown to me the ugly face of the Party. It was a face that would rapidly re-emerge soon after September 2001.

I believe that for too long the Liberal Democrats Front Bench were pulling their punches when Labour should have been floored time after time.

In 1998 I moved to Durham full-time and got my personal life sorted out before moving forward to actively re-engaging in politics again.

The Durham years will follow in the next part.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

The Crackdown in China Begins

As I predicted when I reviewed the recent article written about China by Ming Campbell (but I suspect mainly ghost written) the widely expected crackdown before the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has begun. Jonathan Watts has again written one of his great articles for the Guardian linked here.

The core of the article is:

"Chinese journalists privately say the current atmosphere is stifling. International civil rights groups say the rules are a new threat to press freedom.

"This crackdown is a legal gun to the head to responsible journalists who want to report on the basis of facts," said Sophie Richardson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "China has a long track record of using similar campaigns to weed out news that the authorities find objectionable because it exposes social and political problems."

"In recent decades, China has gone through cycles of media opening and repression. Since president Hu came to power five years ago, there have been steps backward - such as the jailings of several prominent journalists - and steps forward, including the easing of restrictions on foreign correspondents at the start of this year.

"But as was the case ahead of the last party congress in 2002, the leadership has reverted to bunker mode". (Sounds familiar).

Hopeful now Ming? I'm not.

There is also a clampdown on NGOs such as those supporting the rights of Chinese citizens with HIV.

The human rights situation in China is going exactly as predicted. There are no grounds for optimism at the moment unless increased pressure is brought to bear from the West.

It is time that the Liberal Democrat leadership stopped trying to appease Beijing and stood up for what we are supposed to believe in. True freedom and human rights for all the world's citizens.

Yes, the way to influence Beijing is through constructive engagement but someone should be putting a flea in the ear of the Chinese Ambassador.

The Liberal Democrat Front Bench needs to show some leadership here. This is what our core supporters expect from us. This is our mission and the Olympics should not deflect us from campaigning internationally on our core values.

I'd normally spend some time looking at the People Daily articles and critiquing them but apart from one allusion to the fact that not everyone is happy about the commissioning of a new nuclear power station near Dalian, Liaoning Province, the press coverage is so deadly dull that you would think China had gone to sleep for August (which it actually doesn't do). The only coverage is postive "spin" on trying to control the air pollution in Beijing. I frankly don't think that they've got a prayer at the moment.

Friday, 17 August 2007

20 Years a Liberal - A Walk Down Memory Lane Part 2

Well, it seems that my blog post of two days ago generated a fair bit of interest. Perhaps some people were sweating. Some of you seem to have been champing at the bit for the second instalment, so much so that I had a phone call this afternoon demanding to know where it was!

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

A couple of days ago was the 20th Anniversary of my joining the Shepway Liberal Association. I charted part of the early part of my political career. I skirted over a few minor details including delivering leaflets out in the Elmsted and Stone Street area with John Gretton who was very unlucky one year not to get elected. He sadly lost it on the toss of a coin (or something like that). I also forgot to mention that I'd helped out a keen young candidate (I've forgotten his name) in a by-election in Selly Oak Ward back in 1989. Poor bloke got something like 6% of the vote if my memory serves me right. Happier times were to be had during a by-election in Acocks Green where Paul Schofield (wonder where he is now?) won a council by-election. This was the first time I came into contact with John Hemming, Dave Luscombe (who for years produced stickers for many of us in the Party), Bill Coyle, Neil Eustace, Paul Tilsley and Sue Anderson. The latter two had first become Councillors in the 1970s Wallace Lawlor days. I seemed to have loads of energy in those days and gained a lot of activist experience!

Sadly, I can't claim to have helped get David Bellotti elected in Eastborne but remember when David was Honorary President of the Student Liberal Democrats.

1991 had seen me stand for office for the first time. If that year had been a strong testing ground for my political stamina, 1992 was to be even greater. I had been not only selected by the Birmingham North West Liberal Democrats as the PPC for Birmingham Perry Barr, I had also been selected as Focus Team Leader for Perry Barr Ward. The stage was potentially set for me to make history as the youngest Councillor in Birmingham for about 20 years (since Paul Tilsley and Sue Anderson had first been elected).

I was incredibly lucky to campaign with some really great people. Ray Hassall was, of course, the trailblazer for the Liberal Democrats in the ward and is still going strong after all these years. We still keep in touch from time to time. Although he had to keep it under his hat as he worked as Medical Correspondent in those days for the Birmingham Post, Jonathan Hunt was my campaign manager (although his wife Marcia was expecting their first child, Andrew just before the local election campaign). Kevin McCarthy was my excellent Agent and, as a printer, he was pretty nifty in putting together Focuses. We started at about that time using a combination of desk top publishing and letrasetting to put together our Focuses. We also started to target specific areas of the ward with more localised leaflets on issues of specific concern - yellow lines, overgrown trees, parking problems, dropped kerbs, crime and other issues seem to spring back to mind. As a young candidate (22! - seems old now in the light of recent legislation) I had to try to build up my credibility amongst the electorate and the only way to do it was ALDC style. I also had a great team of dedicated deliverers. There was Tina in Montana Avenue (?) and her two lovely daughters who did a fair bit of delivery. My colleague Mark Wilson, his wife Debbie and Daughter Anna and a few other regulars who turned out on a regular basis delivered their socks off. We were a good solid team and it was a real privilege to lead them.

It was a pretty dedicated effort there and I was out most evenings campaigning away but it was a lot easier as there was a team.

The Tories under Major seemed to be on the slide. He hadn't exactly set the world on fire, he was widely mocked as the grey man (of course, we didn't know about him and Edwina Curry at that point!) and he looked on the way out. Little did we fail to factor in both the impact of the First Gulf War on his standing and also Kinnock and his Labour Party's ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

My principal opponents for the Perry Barr seat were sitting Labour MP Jeff Rooker (now Lord Rooker - who I learned a lot from on how to work a crowd) and Graham Green the Tory. I treated the election as a learning experience and wanted clearly to achieve at least the same level of vote as the Liberal Alliance Candidate for 1987, Former West Midlands Police Commander David Webb. Webb had been responsible for pioneering Community Policing in Handsworth (then part of the Perry Barr Constituency), which had reduced tensions in the area after the Handsworth Riots of the early 80s.

Funnily enough, as I write this, BBC Four are showing Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain and briefly showed the "Sheffieldberg" Rally where Kinnock and Labour cocked it up through their overconfidence.

I had a fair bit of fun during the 1992 General Election campaign and I had a good pitch since I was working as a research assistant at the former Birmingham Polytechnic, recently renamed the University of Central England in Birmingham, so although I didn't live there I did work in the constituency. Some of the highlights were speaking to the local branch of the Pensioners' Convention, an absolutely hilarious time at Matthew Bolton Technical College, a bastion of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) - splitters! The Students Union Banner was Red (of course) with a Hammer and Kalashnikov on it. Hmm.... I pitched my speech on the lines that the Liberal Democrats were the only party genuinely offering political change for the UK. I don't think it really cut much ice but I'm certainly glad that I wasn't the Tory who came to speak. They literally roasted him alive! I had to admire his guts though. Lynne Jones was also there representing Labour (they also gave her a bit of a hard time too). There was the one Joint Churches meeting in the constituency in addition to the Pensioners Convention meeting and that was that. I really cut my political teeth there.

In terms of the national campaign, I don't think that Paddy Ashdown and Des Wilson could have done much more. Unfortunately all the talk towards the end of the campaign was about hung parliaments and although the canvassing seemed to suggest that we had grounds for optimism to gain ground regrettably it wasn't to be.

Paddy Ashdown came to Birmingham Yardley during the election campaign and I had the pleasure of delivering leaflets and canvassing with him and the Yardley Crowd.
As it was patently obvious to us all on the ground that I wasn't going to win Birmingham Perry Barr and become the first Liberal MP for the area for decades, I agreed with my team that I would spend election day in Birmingham Yardley.

We were pretty optimistic that we could get John Hemming elected but alas, it wasn't to be as we were unable to convince the people of Yardley that he could win. This theme of "if people believed the Liberal Democrats could win this is how they would vote" would be one of the sub-themes of campaigns that would follow in 2001 and 2005. John was and is made of stern stuff and he stuck at it.

I'm stuggling for some odd reason to remember where we held the count. I think it was at the National Convention Centre but I honestly can't remember (I'm sure someone does out there - please remind me). It was all a bit of a blur. I recall making a short speech hoping that that would be the last election held under the present electoral system. Rooker thought that there might be a chance of a Labour Goverment. We were both wrong.

As the results came in it became clear that the Tories were holding on against the odds pretty much. The election was also a personal disappointment for Paddy Ashdown as we failed to make the hoped for breakthrough (it's hard to believe that we only had only 20 seats in those days). The only real highlight of the night was when Don Foster took Bath from Chris Patten - ironically pushing him onto an international diplomatic career which would make him the last Governor of Hong Kong and a democratic radical. Chris Patten would also do a pretty good job of developing EU relations with China increasing the emphasis on human rights issues. It's not often I praise a Tory but Patten had and has some diplomatic strengths.

[If only he had been in the post 10 years earlier then potentially Hong Kong would be more democratic today than it is under the joke that is One Country - Two Systems. C'mon, you know how hard it is for me to go for a day without a dig at the beloved Chinese Communist Party.]

So, the final result was:

Rooker (Lab) 27507 (53.2%)
Green (Con) 18917 (36.6%)
Philpott (L Dem) 5261 (10.2%)

I suffered a tiny swing against of about 2% which I was a bit disappointed about but it was about average for the national result.

It had been my true baptism of fire and I was really grateful for the opportunity to stand. Once again Tony Slavin came to the rescue and put up the £500 deposit which I'm really pleased that I managed to defend.

But, the General Election wasn't the end of it. I had a day off and then it was full tilt into the local elections in May. No rest for the wicked.

The Tories had been pretty much murdered in Perry Barr the year before, but rejuvinated after the General Election and with voters demotivated it was an uphill battle that year. Despite working our socks off unfortunately it wasn't to be and the Tories managed to hold the seat. I went down by 700 votes in a strong second place. Unfortunately we had failed to squeeze the Labour vote hard (Rooker also intervened and went out canvassing to hold up the Labour vote) and that was that. My record breaking dream went up in smoke.

On the night it was said by the commentator on Radio WM (Ed Doolan?) that I had done well for a 22 year old (I think I was the youngest candidate in the City of the major three parties) but Dave Luscombe, the Lib Dem Council Group Leader rightly stated that I would be very disappointed which I was.

I got to bed about 5 a.m. and frankly found it hard to get up the next day.

I've always been very resilient though and never let things get me down for long. It's a characteristic that has stood me in good stead down the years (and one I have had to draw upon again in recent times).

The analysis of my team and myself was that we'd failed to pick up the Labour vote and squeeze it hard. Our canvass returns had suggested that I would be on target to win. We had also worked to the bitter end to get the voters out. I even dragged a young voter out of his house and down the road at about 8.56 p.m.! Poor bloke.

The Labour candidate was a bloke called Mike Leddy, who Private Eye famously later described as "More wooden than Benny from Crossroads". Oooooooooooohhhhhhh!!! I have to say that there was no love lost between the Lib Dems and Labour in Perry Barr which made Ashdown's flirtation with Blair all the more irritating when it was revealed in his diaries.

I learned a hard lesson about proper voter ID and turnout which I would apply ruthlessly later in 2001 as a campaign manager.

So, it was a couple of days off, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. That's what being a Lib Dem was all about then and is still even now at times. It has got easier though.

I want to put on public record my thanks to all the people who helped me with those two campaigns and particularly Jon Hunt, Kevin McCarthy and Ray Hassall who all gave me lots of encouragement, support and a kick up the backside when I needed to keep motivated to go out in the pouring rain. It was a dreadfully wet winter and spring. I also want to thank Tony for putting up the deposit and helping to fund the campaign. As you can see, it might have been a few years ago now guys but you've not been forgotten.

That's 1992. I've written enough for now. More will follow perhaps over the weekend.