Monday, 1 December 2008

The Future

I've decided this week to finally quit the Liberal Democrats. Other Parties should not get excited, I'm certainly not coming your way. I am leaving politics completely as I have had enough of waiting for the Party to get its internal house in order. Clearly this isn't going to happen any time soon and I have no further intention to waste my money and continue being party to ongoing unacceptable practices. Had I been the only one in an isolated case then I might have been able to grin and bear it but there is a systematic problem which is being deliberately ignored by the Party's current Federal Executive. I fail to understand why they failed to talk to those affected directly and make a genuinely informed view.

I can't imagine myself in any other Party but it is no secret that I have a pretty awful relationship with the surviving rump of the Shepway Liberal Democrats. So local political involvement is not really an option for me now and I intend to continue living in Folkestone which I consider to be my hometown. I would like to somehow find a way to make a positive contribution to the economic and social regeneration of the town which is dear to my heart and will continue to look for ways to achieve this in the future.

I would like to thank very much the Executive of the Bromley and Chislehurst Liberal Democrats who very kindly agreed to allow me to rejoin them after the miserable time I had to endure at the hands of certain elements in the Shepway Local Party in 2007. This decision is by no means a reflection on you. You guys were great to campaign with and I certainly miss the Red Lion Tendency. Lennard Woods was certainly a great loss and I miss him. May he rest in peace.

I also very much enjoyed campaigning with the gang up in Durham and particularly with Carol Woods who is a great friend and whom I am very sorry we didn't manage to get elected last time around. She will make a great MP for Durham City (and certainly better than the New Labour lackey who currently has "borrowed" the seat). I am thrilled that you all did so well up there in the last lot of local elections. Thanks for some great campaigning memories.

I have made so many friends in the Liberal Democrats over the years and you all know who you are. It is such a wrench to leave and it is sad that unfortunately a few bad apples have spoilt what was mostly a very enjoyable time for me.

I will make a more detailed statement about the reasons for my decision on my return to the UK for anyone who is remotely interested (probably not many). I'm currently still working away in Croatia at present and only have limited time for this for now and want to choose my words carefully.

I plan to resume blogging in 2009 on different issues which will include international enterprise development in which I have a strong interest, human rights, international relations and other similar issues of interest to me so watch this space.

I would like to thank all my readers, both domestic and international, who have taken the trouble to look at what I have written. Although my readership hasn't exactly been huge it has certainly been truly international. Thanks and bye for now.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Good for You Gavin!

I'm very pleased to hear that Gavin Webb, the Liberal Democrat PPC for Burton has finally been reinstated by the Party after enduring two suspensions from Party membership. Details of the going ons can be found on my friend Alex Wilcock's blog.

It would seem that, not for the first time, some people have been exceeding their powers within the Party. Unfortunately there is a small "barrack room lawyer" tendency within the Liberal Democrats. This small group of people have instincts at variance with the core values of Liberalism and a creative tendency "to make it up as they go along" when someone gets in their crosshairs. These are people who, perhaps due to poor eyesight, or maybe because they joined the Liberal Democrats as a vehicle for personal ambition rather than the pursuit of personal liberty for all are unable to read or understand what it says on the Party membership card:

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one will be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity".

I hope that lessons will be learned by the Party from this sorry episode and I also hope that more attention will be paid to the real need for swift action when there are abuses of power rather than trying to sweep them under the carpet. Sweeping them under the carpet only creates problems further down the line.

Good for you Gavin! May you enjoy taking on our opponents and may your own side leave you in peace to do your job.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The Truth Will Out In The End

Today is a rather bitter-sweet day in many ways. I won't pretend that I am not disappointed with a letter I received from the Council this morning. I dispute some of the statements made within it. My motivation was to protect my personal business interests and there are other interested parties involved as well. The ruling sets an unfortunately precedent as does the subsequent conduct of persons unnamed. Allowing "open season" on members of the local business community will not encourage future investment in the area.

As a professional trainer who undertakes a lot of face-to-face communication in the UK and in other parts of the world I think it legitimate to complain when someone makes a sweeping statement in a local newspaper that you are not competent in this area. People who know me well know that the Councillor concerned was talking bollocks but unfortunately there are a number of people out there I have still to meet who might take the comment concerned at face value until they have had the benefit of a conversation with me. Anyway, I still have 30 days now to consider appealing regarding the decision.........

It does seem that life has a bit of a habit of compensating you though. I have not been the only one who has experienced some "local difficulties". It would appear that a number of other PPCs and ex-PPCs have gone through a similar situation to myself. In an odd kind of way this is a bit of a comfort when you realise that you are not alone. It is even more comforting when some people (who are not you) start to suggest that things need to change for the better. There are some issues that need to be confronted once and for all in the Party about the treatment of PPCs and a recognition that PPCs have multiple roles (husband, wife, worker/self-employed, partner, parent, carer, etc.) and need more support.

I'm certainly never ever planning to stand again for Parliament (I would be divorced faster than you can say "Mao Zedong" if were to suggest it) but it still grieves me that others have also faced a similar situation to my own and next to nothing appears to have been done about it and it is happening again and again.

It is time to end the "Ostrich approach" to these matters and time for someone (English Candidates Committee?) to start showing some real steel and enforce genuine local party democracy.

I've also got some interesting documents but I will try not to mix alcohol and the e-mail system...........

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Hu Jia: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2008?

Jailed Chinese dissident Hu Jia (and maybe also his brave wife Zeng Jinyan who is also under house arrest and who is bringing up their young daughter alone) is/are being tipped for the Nobel Peace Prize. This is very welcome news in light of the Communist Government's blatant failure to uphold human rights as promised around the time of the Beijing Olympics.

Hu was jailed in April apprently for 5 articles he wrote and 2 interviews he gave criticising the Communist Government in China for failing to uphold human rights. How pathetic is that?

Hu has actively campaigned on behalf of AIDS/HIV sufferers and other dissidents such as Chen Guangcheng over a number of years.

There is a moral dimension to this ongoing oppression which ought to give the Chinese Government pause for thought. Governments that lock up people who don't agree with them (we are not talking terrorism here for goodness sake!) tend to have limited shelf-lives, never achieve the moral authority and acceptance in the eyes of the international community that they crave and ultimately implode on themselves when the final vestiges of their legitimacy disappear. It may not happen today, it may not happen tomorrow or in 20 years, but one day it shall if they carry on like this.

Hu would be a worthy winner and it would be interesting to see how and if the Communist authorities would react. I think it would be highly embarrassing for them that Hu is currently in prison on a pretty flimsy pretext. Perhaps they ought to think about releasing him PDQ?

Friday, 19 September 2008

A Good Week To Be A Liberal Democrat

My impression from afar was that overall Nick Clegg and the Party had a very good week in Bournemouth. I was a bit surprised at Iain Dale (the Tory one) making a bit of an arse of himself over Nick's comments when anyone with half a braincell would realise that Nick was talking to the person in the street about Lehman Brothers, Meryll Lynch etc. I'm really delighted that Making It Happen was adopted without amendment and I think that finally the Party has begun to capture the mood of the moment. People are struggling to make ends meet and they want their money where they need it, in their pockets.

I thought that Iain was better than that but I guess that Tories who like to talk about social justice and then commit themselves to continuing with a REGRESSIVE tax structure which punishes lower and middle income earners at the expense of the wealthy in society must be feeling a little bit rattled and concerned and grasping at straws to discredit Vince Cable and Nick Clegg. There is nothing "right wing" about Making It Happen. That is good economic and political sense in a Liberal and progressive way.

To heap misery on it, it would seem that floating voters and even existing Labour supporters prefer Clegg to Cameron according to Newsnight. HINT: address the incidence of the tax burden and THEN you can be taken seriously on social justice issues. The current Tory message looks like "we hear your pain but we don't really give a damn as we've decided to adopt a Blue Labour strategy".

It's been a tough 18 months or so to stay in the Party with all that has happened, and some of my good friends leaving, but this week has made me glad that I've kept my membership and kept going through the gritted teeth. A good stronger small business and enterprise development policy now to really encourage so many of those millions of small business people to come to naturally support our Party and we will be on the road to longer term success.

Is the Liberal Democrat Business Forum Still Operating?

I'm still working away here in Zagreb and so was not able to get along to Bournemouth and so hence my question.

I'm curious to know if the Liberal Democrat Business Forum is still operating. I would be grateful for any information anyone has on whether or not it is operating and how I could get involved if I wanted to.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Choking on My Museli

I was going to suggest that I choked on my kulen (a type of Croatian sausage) here in Zagreb this morning when I read that the Liberal Democrat leadership had ditched their commitment to joining the Euro at the earliest opportunity but felt that such an image might be a bit of a "Carry on Croatia" double ententre. I can just hear Sid James' dirty laugh and Kenneth Williams intoning "oh Matron" as I write this. So, instead, I choked on my organic museli instead which is far more Lib Dem.

I have to say though that I'm a bit surprised to hear the news and also a little bit disappointed since I have always felt that our strong Europeanism was a distinguishing feature of our Party although I think we had allowed ourselves to become caracatured wrongly by our political opponents as wild-eyed Eurofanatics when the reality has been that we have been arguing for reform of EU institutions and genuine subsidiarity for as long as I can remember. Still, I am left with an uneasy sense that something distinctive has been lost today.

Clearly there has not been the hoped for convergence with Euroland. Much of my business this year has been working with the Euro and the slide of the pound against the Euro has been nothing short of remarkable (and has raised my business turnover significantly more than I had originally forecast).

Pound Sterling to Euro Exchange Rate Graph - Sep 13, 2007 to Sep 12, 2008

On the other hand, joining the Euro might have been better for our longer term economic prospects. Sadly, once again we let the European ship leave the port before we decided to get aboard and I guess that although I will always in my heart wish to join the Euro, my head tells me that the moment to do so has passed.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Liberal Legend 2 Currently Available in China

I've had a bit of a shock. Either someone has cocked up somewhere or maybe, just maybe, someone has been listening and realised that censorship is not really on!?

This is my first post ever from Shenyang, China and the first time I have ever been able to read my blog here.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Hats Off to the Beijing Games Organisers

I have to say that that was one of the most spectacular Olympic Opening Ceremonies I can ever remember.

Congratuations to the organisers of the Beijing Games.

Lord Coe, I think you have your work cut out Sir!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Crossing the Line - Former Tory PPC for Watford Ian Oakley Pleads Guilty

Ian Oakley, the former Tory PPC for Watford has pleaded guilty to a significant number of charges related to intimidation of Sal Brinton, the Liberal Democrat PPC for Watford and a number of Liberal Democrat Councillors, activists and supporters.

There are a number of grave concerns here which need to be addressed:

Firstly, who knew what in the Tory campaign HQ in Watford and beyond? Was it really possible for an individual to act alone and wage a war of intimidation against political opponents and not be detected? Did some people in the Tory camp know what was going on and turn a blind eye or worse? Will there be further action against others?

Secondly, why has Conservative HQ sought to wash their hands of the affair when all the intimidation was undertaken whilst Oakley was both a Conservative Campaign Manager and a Parliamentary Candidate? Does David Cameron really believe that just because Oakley quit the party after he was arrested "that's OK then?".

Politics can be a very high pressure activity as those who have been involved in intensive political campaigns when you are fighting to win know all too well. Sometimes the ambition of certain individuals runs beyond their reason (and their ability) and the temptation to take short cuts (such as postal vote farming) or to attempt to intimidate political opponents (which was attempted on me at one point over a sustained period of time) and their supporters can go on.

The real tragedy of this sorry affair is that decent people might develop an even greater sense of alienation and apathy from the political process. Politics is supposed to be about people but if there are other Oakley's in political parties who is going to want to stand up and be counted? Do we really want a cut down form of democracy where the choice available to the electorate is limited and campaigning is stunted due to a small number of psychologically disturbed individuals, anti-democrats or thugs?

David Cameron and his Conservatives cannot wash their hands of this matter. If they truly are democrats then they must help all of us, of all political parties and none, who believe in democracy and pluralism to ensure that another Oakley cannot emerge and do it again. All political parties have had bad apples but it does no one any favours if we fail to learn lessons from this sorry affair.

How I Feel Sometimes......

I think this sums up my feelings from time to time.

Monday, 4 August 2008

You Were Warned!

I've been waiting for a public apology from a certain individual who made a generalised falsehood concerning myself in the 17th July 2008 edition of the Folkestone Herald, it's two other editions in Hythe and the Romney Marsh and on the internet. I believe that I have been generous and patient in waiting more than two weeks for a retraction and an apology to appear in a public format (e.g. the Folkestone Herald).

The individual concerned had already received a public warning from me that I would investigate taking further action. I have researched the laws of libel and believe that I would have a very strong case against you and also potentially against the newspaper concerned which clearly failed to check the accuracy of the statement before it was published. Indeed, the newspaper has, in my personal view, acted unfairly in not asking my side of that particular story and giving me the opportunity to reply to the statement that was made. I know that the Editor is not a foolish man and I suspect that he realises that an error has been made which would leave the paper open to legal action. This can be easily remedied through a simple act of goodwill on the newspaper's part. As a lifelong Liberal I am a strong believer in freedom of expression and only insist that statements made with regard to myself are fair and accurate and that when statements are made about me I am offered a right to reply.

Unfortunately, in light of the fact that this falsehood is both on the internet and has been discussed and brought to the attention of others in the public domain I am now left with no option but to take further action against the individual who made the statement concerned. I had already warned you about my views on the statement. In my view the statement is defamatory and needlessly and falsely damages my personal and more importantly, my professional reputation. Frankly it is downright malicious and I cannot for the life of me understand what you were thinking? Were you really unwise enough to think you were speaking "off the record"?

I will therefore be making a formal complaint in writing this week to Shepway District Council since I believe that the Code of Conduct for Councillors has been breached (after all, even though I am a member of Bromley and Chislehurst Liberal Democrats I am still a Shepway District Council Taxpayer and on the electoral roll in the town and run a business in Folkestone), lodging a complaint against you with Cowley Street and contacting the Editor of the Folkestone Herald in writing to ask for an apology and a retraction of the statement and its removal from the appropriate internet site.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Karadžić Before The Hague

Congratulations to the Serbian Government for sending Radovan Karadžić (a.k.a. Very Bad Santa) before The Hague yesterday.

Here's hoping that Ratko Mladić, Goran Hadžić and the other fugitives at large join him shortly. Here is a link to photos of these individuals and what they are alleged to have done.

I just wonder what bizarre disguises these guys are sporting and cover stories they are using. I suspect that they are probably also bizarre mystics living under everyone's noses. If you have anyone who claims that they studied YOGA in China that tends to be a MASSIVE GIVEAWAY!

Congratulations to President Tadić for his courage in doing the right thing. I hope that Serbia will be incentivised to further cooperate with The Hague and enable the international community to bring these individuals (I won't call them "men" as they are cowards who preyed on the vulnerable) to justice.

Who Thought They Had Really Changed?

I'm just reading David Batty's piece on the Guardian Online site on internet access for journalists who will be covering the Olympics in Beijing.

Surprise, surprise, the internet is being blocked by the paranoid authorities as usual. Did anyone really ever expect the Chinese Government to keep any promises on human rights and press freedom?

All the Chinese Communist Government has been interested in all along has been prestige and shoring up their "legitimacy" through an appeal to their domestic audience via the mechanism of the most prestigious international event going. They have once again put two fingers up to the free world and we have all been conned once again.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Liberalism - The Natural Friend Of Small Business (?)

As my friends will probably know, I have spent a considerable working in the small and medium enterprise research and development field, particularly internationally. I personally have always seen both the Liberal Democrats and liberalism as an ideology as being thoroughly compatible with the worldview of small business people given our historic and current emphasis on the freedom of the individual, concerns with excessive concentrations of power (hence the need for competition policy to mitigate the effects of excessive monopoly power on both consumers and producers), the desirability of self-reliance against dependency and our support for the idea of free trade. The very foundations of the party have made us reluctant, and rightly so, to be dependent on donations from large business and the trade unions. Historically the Tories have always been seen as the creatures of big business and Labour as the friends of the trade union movement. This has started to break down.

In fact, I would even be as bold to suggest that the Liberal Democrats ought to be seen as the natural champions and home of small business people for the pure and simple reason that our campaigning practice has in so many ways shown very enterprising characteristics. I was therefore a little bit surprised when several years ago I bought and read Conrad Russell's "An Intelligent Person's Guide to Liberalism" and noted that his chapter on economics was somewhat brief. I greatly admired Conrad and thought that this book was fantastic except in this one aspect.

Whilst I have been working in Croatia I have become aware that the EPP-ED Group has an SME Union which is effectively a federal forum of SME groups associated with Christian Democratic, Conservative and Centre-Right political parties. I am also concerned that the UK Tories have also tried to make the running a bit on SMEs with the Richards Report.

I know that there are a number of Liberal Democrats who are self-employed and there might be merit in starting an AO to represent our views on SME policy and the (sometimes needlessly difficult) business environment we face and what can be done to create a better business environment in which people can start, sustain and grow their own business.

There would also be strong merit in ALDE member parties and ALDE as a whole creating a representative body to represent the interests of Liberal small business people across the Union and showing why we are the natural friends of the small business community. After all, the EPP 9 reasons why small business people would vote EPP in next years European Parliamentary Elections are pretty insipid to put it mildly (actually, I think they are crap).

The fact that Cameron is about to engage in the usual Europhobic madness and pull out of the EPP group creates an opportunity for both British and European Liberals to become the natural representatives of small business. Let us grab this opportunity!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Come on Kent!

I'm thrilled that Kent have made it into the final of the Twenty-20 Cricket Cup today after an excellent performance earlier against Essex.

Best of luck to Rob Key and the lads for this evening's game against Middlesex!

Friday, 25 July 2008

My Condolences

I'd like to express my condolences to the family of Corporal Jason Barnes, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers who sadly was killed in Helmand, Afghanistan earlier this week. As the brother of another serving REME soldier out there I am thinking of you at this time.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Very Bad Santa

Sorry I couldn't resist.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing this awful man on trial in The Hague. President Tadić has played a blinder so far. Come on Serbia, get Mladić and we may see you in the EU sooner rather than later.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Has Radovan Karadžić Been Captured?

I hope that tonight's news is true and that Radovan Karadžić, the former leader of the Republika Srpska entity in Bosnia-Hercegovina has been captured. If this is true then this is fantastic news. Karadžić has been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague and has been a fugitive for many years. Let us hope that he will soon be followed by General Ratko Mladić. The capture of both men can only help to speed Serbia's entry to the European Union.

The scars of war are still visible in both Croatia and Bosnia and I hope that this will help to heal some of those scars.


It is looking like it has been confirmed. Excellent! I hope that I've finally spelt that evil man's name correctly (not that he deserves it).

I pray that this will bring comfort and peace to the survivors and families of the victims of his murderous regime. May the victims rest in peace.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The "100 Top Books" that I've Read - Sad Innit?

This has been copied off Peter Black's blog who apparently copied it off Alix Mortimer. Looking at the number of books that I've read on the list I think I need to get out more! I make it about 48 of the top 100 I've read.

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.2) Italicize those you intend to read.3) Underline the books you love.4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them (although I wouldn't object if they wanted to "force" some of the book's I haven't read onto me!).

Naturally, dear reader, you are welcome to copy this list to your own blog and follow the same exercise.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12.Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

List last updated on 3rd August 2008.I'm working through the list at the moment. 43 read so far.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Watford Tory PPC Resigns

Ian Oakley, the Tory Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Watford has resigned after being arrested on suspicion of running a hate campaign against Liberal Democrat Councillors, Candidates and Activists in Watford.

Given the nature of some of the allegations against him which include making and distributing literature falsely alleging that some of them were convicted sex offenders I am now wondering if this is not the same person in the Tory ranks who accused my friend Ben Abbotts, the Liberal Democrat Candidate at the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election, of being a paedophile by shouting out such a ridiculous and false claim when the declaration was made....

I have a lot of sympathy for Sal Brinton and her colleagues who have obviously had a terrible time at the hands of whoever has been responsible. Clearly Mr Oakley is innocent until proven guity and we will have to see what happens.

I also had similar experiences of harrassment whilst I lived in Birmingham after I first stood for the Liberal Democrats in local elections. The trouble started soon after I first stood in Oscott Ward in 1991 and went on intermittently for over a year. I used to get strange nuisance calls, pizzas and taxis sent to my address in my name which I had not ordered, etc. The incidents were reported to the police but, as far as I am aware, no one was ever charged. I have my suspicions as to who the likely culprits were but will not repeat the allegations here.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

For the Record

This is a response to some strange statements made in the 17th July edition of the Folkestone Herald.

1. I continue to be a member of the Liberal Democrats and have been since 15th August 1987 despite the events of last year. I am a Liberal and have been a card carrying one all my adult life.

2. Claims that I "cannot communicate face to face" don't wash. If I can't communicate face to face why have I been asked today to spend more time (an extra 35 days) in Croatia delivering training, coaching and mentoring to business support service providers and Civil Servants in the Croatian Government by that Government? I think that this, amongst other things, somewhat undermines that claim.

If I have the poor face to face communication skills that I am claimed to have why then did several members of the Bromley and Chislehurst and Orpington Liberal Democrats (including the Bromley Borough Council Liberal Democrat Group Leader) come down to assist the local election campaigning last year (on more than one occasion in some cases)?

In all my years of involvement in the Liberal Democrats around the country I only ever had problems in Shepway in 2007. Even then, I have continued to get on well with several members who supported my Parliamentary Candidacy and others beyond the party who live in Folkestone and the surrounding areas.

If I look back over the years I have been involved in the Liberal Democrats I had a fantastic team around me in 1992 when I stood for Parliament at Birmingham Perry Barr first time around. They were all very supportive of me. I also had good relationships with my fellow members in Warrington Liberal Democrats where I was an activist, local Party officer and Council Candidate.

Later on, after I moved to Durham in the 90's I worked very closely with Carol Woods and others during her Parliamentary campaign in Durham in 2001 and came back from China to help her again in 2005. I got on well with the folks up in Durham.

When I returned from China in 2005 I was welcomed readily by my friends in the Bromley and Chislehurst Liberal Democrats and was very quickly approved as a target seat Council Candidate.

It might also be worth noting that to become an approved candidate you have to get sponsored by 4 party members (well, that was true when I was approved). I didn't find it difficult to find sponsors. In fact, one of the guys up there told me one day "you are going to be an MP one day. You've got what it takes". These kinds of things don't happen to someone who can't communicate face to face.

3. Simon Finlay's Editorial in last week's Folkestone Herald about my "face not fitting with some" in the local party would be nearer the mark than the "disastrously wrong" quotation. If losing 5 councillors in two months isn't things going "disastrously wrong" I don't know what is! I certainly had absolutely nothing to do with that and have been away except for two weeks in April (when even then I was working flat out on material for the Croatian project) since February. As previously stated, I have been back in the UK since 29th June and pretty busy since then.

4. I was not contacted by anyone at the Folkestone Herald before my comments from this blog were published.

5. In the light of the comments attributed to the Councillor concerned and, given the fact that I am a local resident with a business to run here which involves communication training, I am going to investigate what remedies are available to me for some of the unacceptable comments made in the Herald today. This may involve a complaint to the Liberal Democrats nationally and potentially the Standards Board.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

My Favourite Place in Croatia

During my time in Croatia (and there is more time still to come) I had to travel around a fair bit which I enjoyed. There are some great people to work with over there and it has been a privilege meeting so many people and the overwhelming majority have been incredibly kind.

I've travelled the length and breadth of Croatia in that time and seen some lovely places through both work and play (Šibenik, Zadar, Senj, Požega, Osijek, Omiš, Mali Lošinj, Trogir, Krk and Cavtat spring to mind as does the centre of Zagreb) but the loveliest place for me so far has got to be Dubrovnik. If you are ever lucky enough to go to Croatia then Dubrovnik for me is a must see.

Thankfully much (if not all) of the damage inflicted during the Homeland War on the Old Town has been repaired and once again it is a truly wonderful place.

I only wish that I could say the same for Vukovar. The state of the City really shook me as have several war affected places which still visibly show the scars.

I think that Folkestone could learn some more tricks from Zadar though in terms of regeneration. The City and County Government with help from the National Government (and possibly donors such as the EU) have created some interesting permanent features by the seaside including a Sea Organ and some spectacular astronomical sculpturing called the Monument of the Sun.

I hope that the Triennial sculptures will become a permanent feature of Folkestone but I also hope that some other new ideas will come in that could bring more tourists to the town (although, I am not suggesting, for one moment, that there should be a junket for Folkestone Town Councillors to go to Zadar on our Council Tax!!!).

Here's a picture of one of the main streets in the old town of Dubrovnik courtesy of my colleague from the SMEPED project, Klaus Richter (and yes, the weather really was that good!).

Here is another picture of the Old Town of Dubrovnik courtesy of the Croatian Tourist Board.

The Crying Game

Rumours have reached my ears that someone wasn't paying attention (or couldn't read through their tears). For the record, I returned to the UK from my recent stint working in Croatia on 29th June.

I'm back in town and I really don't like what I am hearing. It seems that the usual suspects have been at it again with the pseudo-Communist tactics whilst I've been away these past few months.

These times remind me of the famous quotation "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing". I do not intend to sit by. I only apologise to my friends that I did not fight injustice even harder in the past.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Cromwell, the Long Parliament and Shepway Liberal Democrats

Oliver Cromwell had an appropriate message for a particular individual in the light of tonight's events.

"You have sat here for too long for any
good you are doing. Depart, I say, and
let us have done with you. In the name
of God, go! "

The breaking news tonight is that there have been two further resignations from the Shepway Liberal Democrat group.

The ridiculous "groupthinking" that has been going on for years has got to come to an end and it is time to face up to the situation the local Party has got into. Enough is enough.

It is time to cut the personal abuse and time to get serious about the state the Party is in before it gets too late. The leadership needs to change and reform is urgent.

Decentralise the local Party by bringing back the branches (it is ridiculously overcentralised which has contributed to this mess), respect pluralism (which has not happened leading to a series of avoidable defections and people leaving the Party) and start running the Party for the benefit of the wider membership, not the narrow interests of a small group.

And finally, for good measure, for God's sake start realising that you win in politics when you build coalitions. Purist sectarianism is never going to get you where you need to be. You are not integrated into the local community in any significant way. None of you are involved with the local business community as far as I can discern and frankly the liberal and Liberal coalition has been so badly fragmented that it is going to take an absolute miracle to put it back together again. There has been a discernable paucity of strategic thinking going on since before the last General Election.

The Shepway Liberal Democrats was founded on the principles of pluralism, democracy and tolerance. Genuine Liberal principles. I should know, I was involved in bringing the Shepway Liberal Democrats into existence when I went to vote in Blackpool in 1988.

For the last couple of years it has increasingly been built on the ideas of "Democratic Centralism", de-facto Stalinist purges (thanks to the moronic behaviour of one or two individuals who have behaved appallingly and disrespectfully to some long-standing members) and "re-running elections when the result doesn't suit".

No wonder people of a Liberal persuasion have voted with their feet. It has become no longer a recognisable vehicle for Liberalism. For God's sake wake up!

Monday, 23 June 2008

My Thoughts on a Thug

If you agree with me then feel free to copy this image and put it on your own blog.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

My Deepest Condolences

As the elder brother of a soldier currently serving in Afghanistan my heart goes out to those families who have recently lost loved ones there.

This week I have also known very well the sick feeling that goes into the pit of your stomach when an announcement comes through that someone from the armed forces has been killed in action or injured over there.

I hope that there will lessons learned and fewer soldiers will lose their lives. May the Ministry of Defence work harder and faster to improve the quality of the protective kit out there.

Good luck to the lads and lassies out there who are doing a great job.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

I'm Still Very Much Alive!

Several months after my last blogpost I'm delighted to say that I'm still very much alive and kicking and still working away in Croatia for another couple of weeks. Perhaps some people near Folkestone might not be so happy to hear that.....

I have to ask myself the question when I get the news from home "what the hell is going on?". No, I'm not talking about the Triennial in the town, which is very welcome and hats off to all involved for such an inspired effort. I have to ask myself "what the hell is happening to the Shepway Lib Dems?". Perhaps I shouldn't really care anymore as a member of the Bromley and Chislehurst Local Party but I have to say that I am getting less and less comfortable keeping silent when things appear to get worse and worse.

How many more lost long standing members? How many more lost Councillors? I also have to say that the PPC selection left more questions open than it answered. Does Neil Matthews sleep with a copy of "Il Principe" under his pillow?

OK, so, Season Prater got a bridgehead onto Sandgate Parish Council and hats off to her. She has really run well with the issue of Sandgate's status.

Geoffrey Boot really should make up his mind about whether he wants a base in Sandgate or to have another go for the Tynwald I suspect that the result of the local referendum on Sandgate's Parish/Town status has given him his answer.

But these are minor distractions from the core concern. How much longer will the national party continue to ignore the serious issues that face the Shepway Lib Dems before they finally get serious and start to act on some of the concerns that I and several others raised last year? Or are they really confortable with the Party disappearing down the drain?

P.S. I'm not going to publish anonymous comments so the usual hatemongers should have the courage of their convictions and say who they are. You aren't as anonymous as you think you are anyway.

Friday, 22 February 2008

In Case Anyone Was Wondering

Yes, I'm still very much alive.

I've recently had the privilege to join the Folkestone Lions and look forward to working with my friends in the Club to make a difference to the local area and internationally. I've also been providing training to various organisations in London and Kent and talking to others about training their staff.

I'm about to go to Croatia for a significant period of time to provide small and medium enterprise development policy advice to the Croatian Government as part of their efforts to meet the requirements to join the EU. This will also involve a significant amount of time working in both Zagreb and the regions of Croatia.

Otherwise, I am enjoying life and have less time for blogging than I used to have.