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!