Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quentin Who?

A couple of years back, Quentin Davies was ensconced on the Tory front bench as one of their political great and good. MP for Grantham - the Blessed Margaret's hometown - he was assured of security for as long as he drew breath.

Within the past couple of days, he's rather slipped out of the pantheon - I've heard him described as an 'idiot' and far worse. That might be something to do with his decision to abandon the party of spin for the party of substance and cross the floor. Of course, he couldn't do it without hurling some abuse at Call-Me-Dave:
'Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.
Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve.'

Rumours persist about another Tory planning to make the change, with John Bercow the leading suspect - not for the first time, as his defection was rumoured before the last election. There is also the possibility of traffic in the other direction, as Frank Field is believed to be increasingly uncomfortable on the Labour benches - although that might be down to his emnity for Gordon - and I've even heard hints about Kate Hoey thinking about her position, although that would be a bit of a shock.

Farewell, so long, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

And with a final flourish, he was gone.

Like any great performer, he took his standing ovation and left the stage with remarkable grace after a final, bravura appearance. I've said it often before - we'll miss him now he's gone. At least we were spared the Thatcher-style eviction from No 10 - he (largely) got to choose the time and manner of his going.

How often has he wanted to respond to some convoluted question as he did to Lib Dem Richard Younger-Ross' involved query over the relationship between church and state:
I'm not really bothered about that one.

Probably the most touching were the good wishes from that old warhorse Ian Paisley, hoping for success in Blair's task in resolving the Middle East problem. Cameron handled the whole thing very well - not seeking a fight with the outgoing PM (what would be the point?), but appearing magnanimous in getting his party to applaud Blair out of the House.

And so it all begins again.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

You are the future now

And so we say farewell to Tony (and John) and welcome Gordon (and Harriet).


I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and months. Gordon has the job of justifying the faith of his MPs in his ability. He has to make the most of the poll bounce - a three point lead according to the Observer today - and launch some policies to sustain a lead generated before the handover. I don't think this is a Brown bounce, more of a Blair's-finally-gone-bounce. The Brown bounce will be apparent if he can sustain the performance. He's already appointed a general election co-ordinator in the person of Douglas Alexander - so could he be considering an early assault on the ballot box? I think that this is more about putting the party back on an election footing and ensuring that if conditions are right, then we're ready to go.


That poll doesn't make good reading when it comes to credibility as leader - 40% back Brown, almost double the 22% who support Cameron and eight times the tiny 5% who reckon that Ming would be the man for the job. On the basis of this poll, a third of Lib Dem voters think that Ming would be a good PM, which draws into question their support for a party dedicated to making that happen. As with all mid-term polls that show a slump in LD support, I always add the caveat that they underperform without the light upon them and 14-15% isn't dramatically unusual outside an election campaign.


Meanwhile, Harriet Harman picked up the pitcher of warm spit that is the deputy leadership, although the ornamentation of Deputy Prime Minister eluded her and she had to settle for party chair instead. I was surprised by her win - although it shows the importance of those second votes in a complex election structure - but not hugely disappointed. Either Cruddas or Johnson (or even Blears, heaven forfend) might have been better placed to help party unity - one from the left and the other from the right, but I think that Harriet can make a decent job of it. She'll prove a useful, southern counterweight to the leader, despite his attempts to mask his Scots origins by wrapping himself in the Union Flag to an extent not seen in any post-war leader except Thatcher. Harman also has a strong track record on family and child poverty issues, something that we can expect to be at the forefront of the Brown premiership. There are also political advantages from having a woman in such a senior role - something that I know the Harman campaign majored on. When I saw her speak, I was more impressed with her than I expected to be and she certainly picked up my third place votes, so I guess I helped to put her where she is today.


Tony gave a warm welcome to the new leader - doubtless through heavily gritted teeth, but he's a performer to the bitter end. Just a few more days and he gets to hand the seals of office back to HM and leave the stage, hopefully with good grace and no desire to rage against his old friend, colleague and enemy (how's that for a conflicted, dysfunctional relationship?). Brown is bang on to say that now the election campaign is over

'Nobody is going to serve in the government of the Labour party starting on Wednesday who is not prepared to support the manifesto of our party... When people make these comments, they have got to look at what the policy of our party is and the policy the government is pursuing and there will have to be discipline in the government that I lead.'


That has to be the message for the party - we need unity of purpose. If we do not stand together, we will fail when it comes to the next election.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The long goodbye

I have a theory about Brummie Tory's swift departure from the blogging scene, which got a mention in Iron Angle (where did he get that story? Hi, Paul) this week.

You see, I'm wondering whether the BT has an eye on a council seat - he turns 18 soon enough and would be eligible to stand. Perhaps a new model Tory party might be duped into selecting a callow youth to demonstrate how vibrant and forward-thinking they are and how they are down wid der kids. But then, perhaps he felt that his blog might prove damaging to his prospects. (No, I don't buy the exam story either - why not just suspend posting for a while?)

Well, a little bird tells me that there might be an opportunity knocking in the safe Tory seat of Sutton Four Oaks - if they could be persuaded to tolerate somebody under the age of retirement. Apparently, Cllr Peter Howard has put the leadership on notice that if Whitless stays as leader, Cllr Howard will throw in the towel in 2008. Naturally, there is another option - he might be dissuaded if he is offered a decent job, but the chances of this outcome are reduced by the rumours of plots to depose the Dear Leader.

So, BT - go to it.

UPDATED
Another of my respected sources has surfaced to suggest that Cllr Howard may be hanging on to his seat yet - he's being lined up to chair the West Midlands Fire & Rescue Authority (and pocket the £15,000 allowance that goes with that post) as the Tories have abandoned the partnership they had with Labour over the past few years and have ensured that they have a majority on the executive committee.

Still BT, get yourself on the square and learn the funny handshake and you might yet be OK.

Make your mind up

A little while ago, Call-Me-Dave wanted to be the heir to Blair and even Gideon reckoned that this was good idea. As the electorate seem to have tired of Tony, it seems a dubious sales proposition to offer the electorate more of what they don't want. So this week, the New Tories are the spiritual home of the progressive. Yeah. 'Course you are Dave.
Conservative: disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.

Progressive: favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, esp. in political matters

You see my point? It takes more than a few nice words to make yourself into a progressive, Dave. A thin veneer of family-friendly policy doesn't cut it.

Meanwhile, the old-fashioned Tories opposed to any sort of change are making noises. Hugo Swire brought out the magnificent policy of restoring charges for our national museums, but it was dressed up as giving the museums the freedom to charge. And us no option but to pay.
'We do not want to ban free admissions, but we believe museums and galleries should have the right to charge if they wish... They could use the money to make their facilities even better and could have special arrangements allowing continued free access for children, students and others.'

Hugo, I am certain that if you give museums the opportunity to charge (and doubtless make some 'efficiency savings' in their grants), they will do so. But, hey, if you can't afford to pay, why should you be allowed access to our national collections? Why should 42 million visitors -up 80% since 1997 - get to see all this stuff for free? Why shouldn't they be forced to pay £25-£40 to visit? If you aren't foresighted enough to be born into privilege, why should you be allowed access?

And then, once they realised that this plan was, well, unpopular with the middle-class who have made most use of it and have a habit of making use of their votes as well, the Tories u-turned in record time. Within hours, Hugo Swire was being disowned and forced to issue a new statement.
'It is not our policy to bring back admission fees for museums and galleries," he said. "We are committed to the principle of free admission.'

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Question Time - live blog

An effort on live blogging tonight. No idea how effective it will be, but here goes. I've not filled out my ballot paper(s) yet and I've decided to hold off until I see who does well on this.

First up - what's Blair's biggest failure? Hain wimps out by bumbling on about housing - valid point about a policy failure, but ignores the elephant in the room. Harman and Cruddas both get the answer right, grab the elephant and nominate Iraq. Benn suggests a failure to narrow the poverty gap and Johnson suggests children in care - answering strongly when he is challenged about the whole decade being one of failure. My brain seems to have erased what Blears blathered about. Hain comes back by saying that we should deal with major international issues by strengthening international institutions. Cruddas gets challenged over his vote in favour of war, saying that he was, with hindsight, wrong to back it and would not do so if he knew then what he knows now. Hain and Harman both admit that they believed the intelligence data as presented and took their decisions in good faith. Johnson makes similar noises.

When challenged over being dominated by Europe, Hain is proud to be a pro-Europe government - for which he gets a burst of applause. Benn supports him, pointing out that a co-operative approach to our role in Europe has delivered better results than the Tory antagonism previously. Cruddas says that we should have developed more citizen involvement. Another questioner later tries to revive the subject, but is shut down by Dimbles as the candidates don't
disagree over European policy.

On to a discussion on what they would have done differently to Prescott. Johnson would have carried out the same role as Prescott - being loyal and supportive publicly, but not being afraid to point out the mistakes in private. Harman would have pushed families further up the agenda. Hain wants to use the position to revive the party, something echoed by Cruddas. Blears wants to encourage the cabinet to get out more and see what works for our communities. Benn backs Prescott and says that the Deputy Leader needs to work to restore faith in politics. In response to a question from the audience, Benn comes back strongly over the issue of poverty - pointing out that there can be a difference of 15 years in the life expectancy of people living in different parts of London.

In response to a question citing the popularity of Jon Cruddas, Benn responds by saying that reconnection is a matter of talking about the things that matter, like inequality. Hain denies that there is an Old Labour/New Labour rift and says that the main challenge is taking on the Tories. He mentions that he's produced a policy pamphlet and, a little unconvincingly, denies that he has been cold-shouldered by Gordon for his redisovery of his left-wing principles in time for the deputy leadership election. Cruddas says that we've lost our way in not articulating the concerns of ordinary people as we did in 1997 and that many of the issues aren't about a split between the arms of the party.

Quite rightly, Johnson says that many of the policy areas that Labour has majored on over the past decade are traditional left-wing issues and it is a measure of their popularity that Cameron is trying to take the same ground. Harman thinks that people want the broad reach of a leadership team comprising her and Gordon. Dimbles puts Blears under some pressure here on the tax issue - she warns that candidates should be careful about making statements for popularity within the party without considering the effect on the wider electorate. Harman says that we won support for our policies like the minimum wage because we made sure that our policies were good for the middle-ground.

Now there's a question over the relationship with America - Harman says that we should maintain it, but we need to be prepared to tell them when they are wrong over things like Guantanamo or extraordinary rendition. Hain says that there is a resurgent Democratic party in the US and these changes will allow us to achieve more in solving major international problems. Nobody seems prepared to suggest abandoning the 'Special Relationship.'

Alan Johnson floods us with positive statistics over education and improving results. The questioner was actually talking about the problems with the MTAS computer system for allocating positions to junior doctors.

A new question about the creation of a 'Big Brother State.' Blears denies that it exists and says that there are very real threats to our security, citing popular support for CCTV schemes. Harman (former chair of NCCL/Liberty) says that the Human Rights Act offers protection against abuses of power. She says that collecting information is about making people safe, not about Big Brother. Returning to a previous theme, after prompting by Dimbleby, she is strongly critical of the Guantanamo camp and also wants a new international agreement to ensure that flights carrying prisoners are identified.

The panel are asked what piece of legislation they would most like to see repealed. Cruddas flunks it and can't offer an answer first time round. Johnson says that the 17p increase in pensions in 1997 was wrong. Blears says that are perhaps one or two pieces of legislation that haven't been implemented and the key thing is to ensure that powers are used to make communities safer. Benn has a better answer than Cruddas, saying that he can't recall being pestered by the electorate to repeal legislation. When prompted by Dimbleby over tuition fees, he responds by supporting them and paying tribute to Johnson for piloting the legislation through parliament to remove up-front fees and restore grants. Hain reckons that we're over-regulated in some areas - he cites school trips and fear of litigation. Harman takes on the question and challenges the premise, falling over a little more gracefully, but then passing the buck back to Cruddas. He's had a little time to think and raises Trident and the ban on asylum-seekers working (both of which get applause from the audience).

Johnson says that he had no encouragement from the PM to challenge for the leadership and that this contest isn't a poor substitute for an abandoned contest for the top job. Benn points out that this is simply a result of an open process.

On to a query as to what influence a deputy leader can have, now that Gordon is able to unleash his plans on the nation. Hain says that it is important to be in Cabinet to influence policy - taking on the Cruddas desire to not hold a Cabinet post. Blears reckons that Gordon will be able to release some of the levers of power. Following on from a challenge by Dimbleby that she would be a patsy for Brown, Harman says that she has worked with him for 25 years and has already influenced some of the policy ideas that Gordon has. Johnson claims that if you make a decent argument and are sure of your facts, then Brown will listen. Benn says that we have to govern by consent and that we should stand up for the things that we believe in. Cruddas says that the Deputy Leader should be prepared to offer the challenges from the party to the government.

Interesting question about recognising excellence, the panel are asked to name the biggest political success of one of their fellow candidates. Hain nominates Benn for international development, Benn cites Harman's role in pushing the child service agenda. Harman nominates Cruddas for putting housing on the agenda and Blears backs Johnson over bringing maternity pay and other benefits in while at the DTI. Johnson goes for Blears over her chairmanship of the party and Cruddas misses out backing Hain over Ireland and praises Johnson for his management of education bills through parliament.

After a short period for review, I'd say that Benn won the contest - being able to see him close up, rather than across a hall in Warwick, he seemed very calm, competent and clear-sighted about where he wants to go in the job. His resemblance to his father in voice and mannerism is rather spooky - whether that's a good thing, I'm not sure. Hain cut a sad figure to me, he looks like a man who knows he's beaten and he seems tired by the whole thing - the permatan has faded as well. Cruddas remained positive and I thought gave a solid performance, if not quite so match-winning. He had a lot of support in the room and picked up the biggest bursts of applause of the night for some of his comments - Trident in particular. Blears is still Blears and will be a loyal Blairite to the bitter end. Harman was pretty strong, combative where needed and was suggesting strongly that she is Brown's choice for deputy leader. I had a phone call from her campaign earlier in the week and the key argument put forward on her behalf was that she was a woman. My response was that I'd vote for whichever candidate I thought matched my principles and would offer the best for my party. If gender was the sole delineation between otherwise identical candidates, then I'd probably vote for the woman, but otherwise I'm not going to cast a vote solely on that basis. You can question how much Harman and Hain have jumped on the Cruddas bandwagon over rebuilding the party, but remember that they both led organisations that depended on their grassroots support. Johnson also looked very competent, bravely reminding the audience about the received wisdom amongst all the international intelligence community in 2003 that Saddam Hussein did indeed have weapons of mass destruction. That was certainly a view held by the Russians, the Germans and the French - none of whom backed the war.

We have five strong candidates for the post. And Hazel Blears. Any of them would make a competent deputy leader, so the choice isn't as easy. In particular, the second votes will count. I was asked who should be the unifying Prescott figure in a comment to an earlier post and this is an interesting question. It depends on who you think Brown will need to keep inside the tent. I suspect that Brown will have to keep an eye on the traditional awkward squad on the left and also some of those disillusioned Blairites on the right. They are probably pose a greater threat of disruption so Johnson would probably be a good counter-weight to Brown, as he has strong contacts within the Blairite wing and remains a loyalist. Cruddas has a number of unions backing him, so he would be the best direct replacement for Prescott in terms of maintaining the union contact.

It will all be decided next week and then we can get back to the real business of the day.

Practical solidarity

The Fire Brigades Union demonstrates that there is power in a union yet by delivering two fire appliances to the fire service in Iraq. Read the story here. Hat tip to Small Town Scribbles.

Two Nation Conservatism

On the one hand, we have Dave Cameron arguing in favour of flexible working for all parents - nice to see that he's caught up with the Labour Party, as this is a policy I fully expect to see brought in under a Brown administration. I am cheered by this change of heart, as I'm more used to seeing the Tories criticise any shift in favour of workers' rights because of the effect it might have on business. Remember that they opposed the minimum wage.

On the other hand, we have the unreconstructed Tory Cllr Bill Archer in Sandwell, who was a little less supportive when a fellow councillor (who coincidentally happens to be a Labour member) took paternity leave to be with his wife who has just given birth. Archer described it as 'unacceptable' according to The Stirrer.
'I’m old fashioned I know, but do we have to cancel council business until he’s ready?... My wife had four children but we just got on with it... Personally I can’t accept that a councillor isn’t available for duty. I think it’s a bit unfair on the electors. It’s not the council’s fault he’s having another child... He’s vice chair of the Wednesbury town committee. If the wives of all the other councillors got pregnant, would that mean that it would just have to stop doing its job?'

Dave, sometimes the donkeys just won't be led, will they? One day, they will drag Bill into the twentieth century - any more progress would be too much to ask.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Brown Meme - Got to be Gordon

I don't usually play in these 'tag' games, but this is a little fun from some Tories....


Two things Gordon Brown should be proud of.

Just two?

  • Massively increased funding for the NHS
  • Sustained funding for education
I can remember how it used to be. (God, I feel old). I've made the point before, but the showpiece Patients' Charter from the last Tory government promised treatment within 18 months. Labour will promise and deliver treatment within 18 weeks. As far as education goes, I can also remember how it was for schools in the 80s - scratching for money for books and buildings. Labour has opened more new schools in the past five years than in the previous 25 put together. We've opened over 1000 schools and over 1200 Children's Centres as well.


Two things he should apologise for.

  • The invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Not his decision ultimately, but he signed the cheques and was a senior government figure. Somebody also has to carry the can for shaping the intelligence to fit the policy, which was entirely unacceptable behaviour.
Two things he should do immediately when he becomes PM
  • Scrap ID cards. They won't work and will to be this government's Poll Tax.
  • Initiate an immediate plan to extract all UK forces from Iraq. I opposed te war, but I believe that we do have a responsibility to the Iraqi people for trying to put right what we broke. Sadly, I think that the evidence suggests that the British forces are part of the problem, rather than the solution and that Iraq needs to find its own way. This will be bloody and I don't like abandoning the good people there, but I can honestly see no other way.
Two things he should do while he's PM
  • When reforming public services - listen to the front line. Whether it is the NHS, the police or education - ask those at the sharp end how things are working and what needs to be done.
  • Allow councils to invest in new build social housing. People tend to prefer renting from the council and we should be able to provide good quality affordable homes - with a prohibition on tenants buying them for at least ten years. This will take the heat out of the housebuying market and would need to be managed to ensure that prices don't collapse precipitously, but we need more housing.
  • And there's a third thing - win the next election. It can be done - it must be done. We've won a huge victory in that the Tories are now coming on to our turf to fight - they realise that people value the NHS and things like parental rights.

Anyone else have any thoughts?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Every Prime Minister needs a Willie Johnny

The education debate within the Tory Party does not bode well for the further conflicts ahead over policy. By itself, it was a slight squall in a cappucino cup and nothing more, but Cameron has been wounded by it - by no means fatally, but it has been a little scarring. In a deviation from the Tony Blair 'How to Reform Your Party' book, Cameron backed down in the face of his parliamentary party, despite the resignation (before he was sacked) of a junior shadow minister. Even then, other front benchers - Dominic Grieve, for example - were allowed to modify what seemed a clear-cut policy on the fly, without any sanction being imposed. The only message that can be drawn from this is that Cameron lacks the muscle to deliver on the controversial issues. When the opportunity came to demonstrate that the changes in the party were root and branch, he flunked the test.

In conversation with a friend of mine this week, he pointed out the real reason for the Tory education crisis - that Cameron doesn't have a Prescott to act as his wingman. Now before the Tory visitors get all caught up in abuse from the Tory commentators over secretaries and croquet and other items of fluff and frivolity, hear this out.

You see, Prescott has been a vital part of the government for the past decade. Not only has he mediated between Brown and Blair when that relationship was somewhat strained - to be be delicate about it - but Prescott has also acted as the outrider for the Blair/Brown political operation. Whenever things looked difficult, it was Prescott who had the clout and the background to keep the other Labour stakeholders - chiefly the unions, but also the party itself - broadly in line. It is wrong to portray him as some sort of enforcer, but he has the credibility with those players that made the difference. The real problems for Cameron occurred when he was on holiday, when party discipline seemed to fall apart. When Cameron's around, things seem solid enough, but the press will leap on any dissent and it seems likely that there will be more - the failure of Cameron to deal effectively with his dissenters may make it more likely.

Without a credible Cameron loyalist holding the ring for him - someone who has the ability to work with the right wingers and can convince them of the need to back the leadership. It also has to be someone that the Cameroons can trust - somebody who has no desire to replace Dave. Liam Fox or David Davies should probably stepping forward to do the job for the sake of their party, as they are probably the men best-qualified for the role, but have either of them surrendered their leadership ambitions?

As the Cameroon revolution spins onwards, we can expect to see real policies emerge and some of those won't necessarily follow traditional Tory principles. I understand that we can expect to see the first fruits of this policy process as soon as the autumn. The party in the country and in the House won't always buy them at first opportunity, but Cameron knows that he needs to keep the image going to ensure that all those middle-ground swing voters buy the campaign and bring their lovely, lovely votes across to the Tory Party. The events of the past couple of weeks suggest that this process might not be as smooth as might be expected.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Millionaire funds Labour Party Shock

It seems that John Hemming, Lib Dem MP for Yardley, is a member of the Musicians' Union and has, unaccountably, agreed to pay the political levy (which goes straight to the always-hungry coffers of the Labour Party), so gets a vote in the deputy leadership election. Naturally, it isn't his fault that a Liberal Democrat is secretly funding the Labour Party, he claims it was an oversight caused by the the small print, although you would have to be spectacularly stupid to realise that you weren't supporting the Labour Party by paying into a union's political fund.

Like Bob Piper and others, I'm more than happy to see some of Cllr Hemming's cash flowing into the party bank accounts, but there's an interesting follow up. The ballot paper from my union includes the following statement, to which I have to agree to cast a valid vote:
'I support the policies and principles of the Labour Party and am not a member or supporter of any organisation opposed to it and pay a political subscription to the body that issued this ballot paper.'

If John casts his votes for the deputy leader, I'll get the membership papers to him by first-class post. I'm not sure the party will let him join, but it could be fun trying.

Of course, I'm sure that a fine upstanding opponent of electoral fraud wouldn't lie on a ballot paper.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Curse of Dale (Paul, not Iain)

No sooner had BrummieTory been criticised in the Post, then his blog disappears...

Has he been got at? Has his blog been taken down by The Man? What can it all mean?

Answers to the usual address.

Remember that everything lives on in Google cache...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

More bad grammar


Via Bob Piper. How policy is developed in the New Tory Party..
You have to feel a little sorry for Graham Brady, who discovered his principles and resigned before he was sacked. His former colleague Dominic Grieve was able to change policy on the fly and won the backing of the leadership. I'm sure that is is irrelevant that Dominic hails from Westminster and Oxford, while Graham is a grammar school boy who went to the (slightly) lesser university of Durham. That couldn't explain the differences in their treatment.
Could it?



Saturday, June 02, 2007

I like driving in my car (actually it IS a Jaguar)

Iron Angle picks up on something that Labour missed when it tried to hang abuse of council property on Whitless. Certainly, he used it to pop to the supermarket up the road from his house and he seems to have been a regular traveller between the Council House and Skeldings, the company he apparently runs. However, the real fun starts when you look at how this new, green Tory uses his council Jaguar - complete with chauffeur - to drive around the city.

Clearly, Mickey can't be expected to walk amongst the plebs. That would be too much for him to bear. It might even be too much for us to bear.

So, he has used the Jag for trips to the BullRing, Alpha Tower, the Radisson, the Hyatt, Snow Hill, Bank and Opus restaurants and to New Street station. The picture below shows you a few of these destinations. To give you an idea of the scale, the picture shows an area about 2500m across. The BullRing and New Street are just off the edge to the bottom right, the Radisson is a little way below the 'T' of Tower, the Hyatt is to the left of Alpha Tower and the Bank Restaurant is a bit further away to the left.

If Whitless comes back and says that the car is quicker, my experience is that walking to all of these destinations from the Council House is going to be shorter and quicker than driving. For example, the walking distance from the Council House to Alpha Tower - cutting through Paradise Circus, is a quarter of the driving distance, which has to take into account the one-way system. He could walk to New Street or Snow Hill stations and do half the distance it would take a car and that isn't taking into account the inevitable delays caused by traffic jams. Bear in mind that for some of those journeys, the driver would have been sent away after dropping his master off and would then have to make a return trip, so potentially doubling the total driving distance. As the Tories' own policy group on transport puts it
growth in motorised transport is associated with a number of environmental and social problems, ranging from climate change and the loss of greenbelt land to health problems such as asthma and obesity
Or as Mike himself responded to the original accusations
my administration is delivering... a cleaner, greener and safer City
So come on Mike, take a stroll through the city you claim to represent. Take a lead in cutting emissions from your car, even if you can't reduce the hot air emitted from your mouth. Or from wherever else you speak. By the way, the picture here suggests that you could do with the exercise (I'm perfectly well aware that I'm chucking stones from the security of my own greenhouse on this issue). I'm not sure whether it shows a Teletubbie reunion or a poor-quality swingers' convention, but fortunately, BrummieTory enlightens us that it was a post-election party.
On another tack entirely Paul Dale also takes a pop at one of my blogging colleagues, BrummieTory, the attack puppy of the local Tories (think of him as a boisterous Labrador puppy). While Gary comes across as occasionally naive and sometimes downright silly, I will defend him (just as I defended John Hemming the last time his blog was attacked) on the basis that it is a good thing that young people are interested and involved in politics - even if they are wrong-headed about their ideals. Aside from his politics, my biggest criticism of young Sambrook is that he could do with taking some more care over his spelling and grammar - and another observer notes that he has pinched some of the format of this blog.
Paul picked up on the guests at the mayor-making banquet nicking the flowers from the table and had the temerity to write about it, something that Brummie Tory thought was a waste of newsprint. I get the feeling that if it had been about Labour members wandering off with flowers, then BT would have been fulminating about the theft of public property (no doubt aided and abetted by the coterie of tame Tory bloggers who all join in these attacks in the hope of creating a little maelstrom of bad publicity for Labour). Thing is, the Tories always prefer to attack the messenger rather than deal with the issues raised by the message itself. Was it a big story? Nope - which is why it was a paragraph in a weekly diary column rather than a front page splash.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Off message

'We've changed,' says The Boy David.

Then he goes on holiday and the other side of the Tory Party crawls out from under a rock.

Sir Anthony Steen, part of the Bufton Tufton tendency, was in a hurry to catch his train to London and, being an important man, he saw nothing wrong in putting his car into a space reserved for disabled drivers. After all, he had only ever seen one car parked in those spaces at Totnes station and he is an important man - a Tory knight of the shires, after all.

So when he gets a ticket for leaving the car there for three days, he responds by demanding that the station stops discriminating against the able-bodied and says that there are too many
'busybodies in this world running around complaining... There are too many whiners and whingers.'

Who says that the modern Tory party is out of touch with reality? The modern Tory party is probably in close touch with their own version of reality, but outside Notting Hill, the rest of the party is firmly locked in 1959.

According to his Guardian biography, he is a former social worker. I'm sure he must have been a tremendous comfort to his clients.