Thursday, 29 November 2012

Saturday Six - #Leveson Thursday Special

So the 1st Leveson report was published earlier and, aside from my own small contribution, the interwebs has been awash with differing takes on the subject. Here are just a few*:
Caron summarises Nick Clegg's statement using the power of Storify. And you can read his statement in full here, with David Cameron's here.
Of course, a free press is a core Liberal belief - and there were many in the party who felt that this cannot be guaranteed if there is any form of State involvement in the regulatory framework. Stephen Tall, for example, believes that Cameron was sticking up for Liberalism today, rather than Clegg.
Finally, contrasting responses from Index on Censorship and Liberty.
The party leaders are meeting tonight and much more debate will ensue - I've a feeling that we'll be coming back to this topic again several times before it's settled.
*Well, six, obviously.

Time, Gentlemen, Please...

The press – the popular press – is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon.

- David Mellor, 1989

In just under half an hour, the Leveson Inquiry report into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press will be published. Subsequently David Cameron and Nick Clegg will give separate - and dissenting - statements on the Noble Lord's findings.
It is anticipated that the report will recommend replacing the existing self-regulation with a system of regulation with "state-underpinning". Cameron is said to be in favour of a tougher, independent regulator whilst Clegg (it appears) seems more minded to accept Lord Leveson's findings. Indeed, the Lib Dem leader is quoted as saying "I hope, when Lord Justice Leveson gives his statement later today, we will remember the reasons why this inquiry was set up." 
As a Liberal, I believe that the state shouldn't interfere in society beyond what is strictly necessary for the good of all. But I also believe that the state has a responsibility to society to prevent abuse of privilege where it occurs. 
I believe that we are at that moment with regard to the conduct of the press. Good journalists, acting legally and ethically within an agreed code of practice should have nothing to fear. Those who could previously transgress with impunity - or just opt out of the Press Complaints Commission altogether - need to know that they can and will be brought to book by a regulator with authority. 
The PCC (set up following the Calcutt Committee into press invasion of privacy - plus ça change...) has failed - it's time to have a regulatory system with real teeth and real sanctions. This isn't about giving the state the power the power to censor the press, as it has been caricatured, it's about the state standing behind a new regulator and giving it real powers to censure the press. 
A free press is essential to a free society - but when it can (and does) transgress - society needs to be free to respond. As it says on my Lib Dem 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..." 
As part of our community, our press must - or must be made to - act responsibly. The press has had it's fill of drinks in the Last Chance Saloon - it's time for a different approach, for the good of us all. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

K25 Part 11 - Slow

It doesn't seem like a month since I last shared a Kylie 25 video - mainly because it was just last week! Anyway, hot on the heels of that one, here is the lady herself with a recording of Slow, as featured on the The Abbey Road Sessions album.

As an added treat, the original video is featured below too - I think it's fair to say that Ms Minogue understands who her target market is...


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Saturday Six 15

It's a grey, drab, dreich Saturday afternoon here in Bristol and I'm sat in my reading room listening to Kylie Minogue's The Abbey Road Sessions* with a cup of tea and my book awaiting. So, let's crack on: 

Choosing to be gay is all about embracing hardships - so why should we introduce Equal Civil Partnerships? Andy West reports...

Of course any discrimination and prejudice directed at gay people is magnified many times for Transgendered people - as this press release on the publication of the European Commission's "Eurobarometer" report on discrimination makes clear.

The Justice and Security Bill has been in the Lords this week where a number of amendments were passed - with support from cross-benchers, Labour and some Lib Dem backbenchers. Meanwhile, the Lib Dem grassroots campaign against it continues. Nick Thornsby makes an interesting contribution: pointing out that the phrase "secret courts" is not nearly sinister enough in describing the effect of the measures proposed.

The Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Jonathan Portes,  relates an exchange he had with Jesse Norman MP (Conservative) when giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee. Norman pursued and extraordinarily hostile line of questioning.

E-mails from Cabinet Ministers to Lib Dem Members are ten-a-penny these days. Mark Valladares has had a missive from Danny Alexander.

And finally - this picture of a feature in this week's Private Eye made me chuckle.


* I was when I started, now have Hurts with Happiness playing and I have drunk all the tea. I've also acquired a cat on my lap, so laptop is now a-top my knees.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

In which I write to The Times...

...sort of.
There is a letter in today's edition Times from Lib Dems Against Secret Courts protesting against the Government's plans to introduce "Closed Material Proceedings" into civil cases. This means that the government and security forces will be able to site National Security and moved to closed courts in which the defendant would not have access to the evidence against them.
If passed, this would strike at both the principle of open courts and the principles which underpin fairness in the Justice system. It would leave the security services and the Home Office with undue influence over legal process.
This autumn's Liberal Democrat conference passed a motion - in defiance of speech after speech from our parliamentarians - calling for these proposals to be dropped from the Justice and Security Bill. Since then the campaign has been continued by Jo Shaw who has organised a petition for Lib Dems to sign and the letter to The Times - which attracted 172 signatures.
If you are a Lib Dem and haven't already done so, please consider signing the petition - if Liberal Democrats don't stand up for Liberalism, Democracy and a free, open and transparent legal system, who will. If you're not a Liberal Democrat - why not join us and join the fight.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

K25 Part 10 - Come Into My World

Here - and only 26 days late - is October's K25 treat: a video of Kylie rehearsing Come Into My World for her Proms in the Park appearance. 

The fourth Top 10 release from Fever, it was co-penned by Cathy Dennis, who also has credits for Kylie's Can't Get You Out of My Head, Britney Spears' Toxic and Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl.

This version of the song features on her new album, the sublime The Abbey Road Sessions which was released at the end of last month.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Street Gallery

On Saturday I joined Bristol Photography Group as they went a walk round the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, known for its independent spirit and street art - including the famous Banksy "Mild Mild West". Here are a selection of the pictures I took:


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday Sounds 57

There could only be one Sunday Sound on the day my Sister gave me the best birthday present ever: a Nephew. Here is the London Symphony Orchestra with the Tenebrae Choir and "For Unto Us A Child Is Born" from Handel's Messiah:


Saturday Six 14

So, now the dust has settled on the Bristol Mayoral Election - and the Police and Crime Commissioner election - I hope to get back to blogging more consistently: both here and over on LibDemGains.

I've not had a lot of time online this week, but had bookmarked a number of twitter links with articles worth consideration for my random selection of posts of the week: and here are the chosen six:

First, Caron outlines a debate on the treatment of drug addicts that is taking place in Scotland - and the worrying tendency for some to demonise rather to seek to understand or empathise.

Although dating from October, I came across this piece from the Guardian last weekend on Remembrance Day - a plea to commemorate and not celebrate the 1st World War.

Next, a Guardian article on the Justice and Security Bill which will facilitate the use of "Secret Courts" in civil cases where the security services are involved. Charlotte Henry has written a piece on the bill for the Spectator, which outlines the views of the Liberal Democrat membership.*

Gavin Hamilton has written a piece praising the skills of Nate Silver who collates and analyses polling data to predict the outcome of US Elections. On this side of the pond, Mike Smithson has been looking at some of the figures in a ComRes  Opinion Poll for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror.


*If you are a Lib Dem - particularly if you are a Voting Rep - please do consider signing this petition asking our Parliamentarians to oppose Part II of the bill, as per the motion on the subject which was passed at conference.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Some thoughts on... PCCs

In a comment on my last edition of Saturday Six, Stephen asked me for my thoughts on the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, being held tomorrow. I had intended to get this up for Monday but have been busy helping with the Bristol Mayoral campaign so here, belatedly and briefly, are some thoughts.

On the role:

Whilst I agree that the Police authorities that the PCCs are replacing are not the most democratically accountable bodies (being, as they are, selected from councillors representing the areas covered by the police force concerned, magistrates and nominated individuals), they do have the advantage of drawing on a breadth of knowledge and experience in setting Policing priorities and holding the Force to account.

Under the new system, these powers (over often large and diverse areas) will be concentrated in one individual who will be free to pander to a particular ideological dogma or a specific demographic or geographical area. Indeed, having elections to a single position will encourage this.

On the running of candidates:

Although the Lib Dems were against the positions, we did facilitate them by agreeing to them within the coalition agreement. This led to some debate as to whether we should stand candidates, back Independents or just not take part.

Given the creation of the role, I was firmly among those who felt we should stand and am disappointed that we do not have a full slate of candidates across all 41 forces in England and Wales

There are those that argue that the role should not be held by someone from a Political Party. I would argue that being independent doesn't mean that someone isn't an ideologue. Being independent doesn't mean someone won't be prone to the sorts of political pressures or influences that party candidates are either. Given the size of the deposit (£5,000) and size of area over which campaigning is required (Avon and Somerset is 1,855 square miles and covers 1.5m people), any independent candidate would require significant financial backing or personal resources. If it's the former, then you have to ask what the Quid Pro Quo is.

In our party system the elections were inevitably going to be contested on party lines. I believe we should have strong voices arguing for a Liberal approach to policing, crime reduction, reduction of offending and recidivism and active measures to work with communities to prevent crime.

On the running of the election:

It's fair to say that the elections have not exactly caught the public imagination and turnout, other than in those areas where there are by-elections or the election of a Bristol Mayor, is going to be derisory. There is, though, no threshold so we are going to have PCCs with small but legitimate mandates. Abstaining, as some advocate, will not change this - or lead to a removal of the post. A Rubicon has been passed and there will probably be no going back for at least a generation.

The single biggest mistake has been the decision to provide candidates an electoral address through the post.  Instead, candidates addresses are being made available online through the choosemypcc website with this being mentioned on the polling card. Given that people will normally put their polling cards to one side when they arrive, it's no wonder that no one has a clue about the elections.

The stable door is wide open and the (police) horse has bolted. I sincerely hope that the Home Office has learnt lessons for next time, though. Paper manifestos delivered by post to every home are a must for future, along with a much better awareness campaign than the one launched this time.

On the electoral system:

The elections are being run under the Supplementary Vote system, which is also used for Mayoral races. You can select a first and second preference - your second vote will count if your first preference candidate does not come in the top two and your second preference has.

It is, not to put to fine a point on it, a bastard system - particularly in a close race. If your candidate of choice has no chance of being in the final two, then you may feel it allows you to vote with your heart as first preference and with your head for second. BUT if your candidate (or the one you would be happy to settle for) is in a close race for the top two spaces, then they have to have your first preference to even stand a chance of being in the second count. It's a system which actively encourages two-horse races and leaves electors second-guessing the result of the first preferences.

In the PCC elections, where the range of candidates is more limited this may not be as much of a problem - in the Bristol Mayoral election, with 15 candidates, it very much is a consideration.

The election is tomorrow and I would urge you to vote - you can find links to your local information and more background here.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sunday Sounds 56 - Remberance Day Edition

Whilst I am not religious and don't own a faith, there is something in tradition hymns which can really strike a chord with the human psyche. Having been brought up with many hymns (both mainstream and Brethren), these have stuck with me over the years.
One particularly resonant example is "Abide With Me" - sung, of course, on the (former) terraces of Anfield and, today, in many Remembrance Day services up and down the country.
Here is Emeli Sandé with a recording of the version she sung so electrically at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Take a couple of minutes to pause and contemplate on the song and on the meaning of this day.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Saturday Six 13

Here we go - another handpicked half-dozen. I'm off out campaigning again today, so I'll not hang around with the preliminaries...

Another Angry Woman has a real go at the way razers are marketed at women. Many of these points could be made in reverse for mens razers adverts too.

Andrew Page over at A Scottish Liberal has a good piece on Nadine Dorries' suspension from the Tory party.

Alex Marsh, meanwhile, had issues with Andrew Marr's interview with Iain Duncan Smith, including Duncan Smith's claim that there are families receiving £100,000 p.a. in housing benefit. That claim is explored over on Full Fact.

Little Grumpy G has found grounds for credit in the SNP's approach to the debate on credit ratings for an independent Scotland.

And finally, this made me chuckle.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 57

This week's choice is a bit of a novelty song - or as novelty as I like my pop, anyway. Fountains of Wayne with Stacy's Mom; a song about a MILF from the point of view of an hormonal teenage boy...


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Bristol Mayor Business Hustings

Last night I attended a hustings for the Bristol Mayoral election which had been organised by the Institute of Directors, Business West and the Junior Chamber. I went along in support of the Liberal Democrat candidate: Dr Jon Rogers. There was quite a lot of tweeters in the audience (which has made this post rather lengthy); here is a flavour of the debate:

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 56

NOW! 56 is an embarrasment of riches when it comes to choosing tracks that meet the remit of this series. Black Eyed Peas featuring Justin Timberlake, Rachel Stevens, Kylie, Blue, Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, Jamelia, Phixx, Elton John, Mark Owen, Texas (yes, even with Kardinal Offishall), Starsailor, Stereophonics, and Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules.
What to choose? What to choose?

Well, I've gone with Little Marky Owen and his Four Minute Warning:


Monday, 5 November 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 55

Eeek - can't quite believe I'm three weeks behind on this series of posts. Still, I have lots of excuses! Anyway, rather than dump them all on you on Wednesday, I'm going to treat you to one a day from now till then.

To start, then, we have The Thrills with their biggest hit (it reached number 17!):


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sunday Sounds 55

It's Sunday - time to kick back, relax, chill and just enjoy the day (although it looks like I'll be out campaigning later...). Why not take 10 minutes to add listening to Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture - one of the most sublime pieces of music ever composed.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Saturday Six 12

It's Saturday, it's 9am and, wonder of wonders, here is this weeks Saturday Six. On time and on budget. 

Those Bond Vigilantes at M&G had a special post for Halloween - five charts that will scare you senseless...

As you will no doubt be unaware, the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales are coming up. Lee at Program Your Own Mind 2 casts a cynical eye over the candidates for Avon and Somerset.*

Richard Morris has been looking at how frequently cabinet posts change hands. I've heard it suggested it takes a good six months for a cabinet minister to settle into a job - bear that in mind whilst you read his findings.

I doubt I'd have been interested in this story if it weren't for the imminent arrival of my Nephew. I don't anticipate being put in this position unless my Sis and Brother-in-Law have gone native in Surreyshire.

Not, strictly speaking a blog or an article, but I reckon this could be pretty interesting once the table starts being populated - bookmark it!

Finally, this made me chuckle - the idea of the Dalai Lama enjoying some Scotch and Rye is quite amusing!

*NB While I don't agree with having PCCs, I don't go as far as Lee does elsewhere on his blog and urge people not to vote. Rather, I urge people to vote for a candidate representing a liberal and reasoned approach to policing. In Avon and Somerset, that candidate is Pete Levy whose pitch is backed up by practical experience as Policeman, Military Policeman and a Police Authority Boardmember.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Don't go to Corby*

(cross posted from over on Lib Dem Gains - which I intend on resurrecting once the next fortnight is out of the way!)

...come to Bristol instead!

Two weeks yesterday we have a Mayoral Election in Bristol. If you are anywhere near, your help in support of our candidate Dr Jon Rogers would be much appreciated.

As you are no doubt aware, Bristol is currently a minority Lib Dem administration. The Labour candidate is currently favourite and a win by him would see a Mayor drawing his cabinet from the minority party on council! With Jon as mayor we can continue to drive forward Liberal Democratic principles in the City.

There's an action day this Saturday; if you are at a loose end, why don't you sign up here. Otherwise, the campaign office is open every day from now until Nov 15 - and there's always things to be done!

*Obviously if you are in the vicinity of Corby (or Cardiff, or Manchester) then I wouldn't want to stop you helping there; but if you're nearer Bristol - or making a special trip - then this is really the place to be!