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.