Monday, March 31, 2008

The bleeding obvious

Duke "did not order Diana death" reads the headline on the BBC's superdooper new website. And in other hot news, Gordon Brown "did not think much of Tony Blair," Rupert Murdoch "makes exceedingly large amounts of money," and Pope Benedict XVI "is Catholic."

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Barnett finally on the way out

There now seems to be fairly compelling evidence that the skids are finally under the Barnett Formula and unsurprisingly this forms the subject of my weekly column in the Newcastle Journal published today.

Donald Dewar and Ron Davies always said that devolution was a "process, not an event" and so it is proving. The growing demands for greater financial autonomy for Scotland are clearly incompatible with the continuance of a funding system which makes the country financially dependent on England and this has created an unexpected window of opportunity for the government to look again at the whole vexed issue.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Well done Beeb

Credit to the BBC for joining in with the rest of us and having a laugh about Charlotte Green's giggling fit on the Today Programme this morning. I have to say I was in stitches myself as I listened to this in my car while driving to work, but it was coupled with a terrible fear, happily unfounded, that poor Charlotte was at that very moment being told to clear her desk by po-faced BBC bosses.

Anyone who has not already heard it can do so HERE.

Top marks also for Ashes to Ashes which ended its run last night with the dramatic revelation of...well, I won't spoil it for the benefit of those who want to watch it on i-player.

Suffice to say that, for me, the best bits of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes have always been the dovetailing of the plot with musical references, and the use of Supertramp's 1979 classic Take the Long Way Home to emphasise that Keeley Hawes' Dr Alex Drake would not be getting back to 2008 in this series at least was inspired.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The egos have landed

Readers of this blog from way back will already be aware of my obsession with The Apprentice which returned to our screens last night.

First to be fired was toffee-nosed barrister Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, who appears to have changed his name from plain Nick Brown, although personally I think he was rather hard done-by.

More deserving candidates for the chop might have included hard-faced Irishwoman Jennifer Maguire, who informed us in complete seriousness that she was "probably the best saleswoman in Europe," baby-faced Kevin, who reckoned that fish have breasts, and whichever pillock it was who tried to cut up a fish-head with the knife the wrong way round.

It promises to be compulsive viewing as ever....

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Freedom of conscience is not the real issue

I am of course against the creation of animal-human hybrid embroys and against making it easier for children to grow up without fathers, but I am not kidding myself that yesterday's concession by Gordon Brown allowing Labour MPs a free vote on key sections of the Frankenstein Bill will change anything in the longer-run.

Once again, the Tories have been playing gesture politics here. They have focused on the procedural issue of whether MPs would get a free vote, hoping it would simultaneously embarrass Gordon and portray them as more sympathetic to the views of the Bill's opponents.

But the truth is that David Cameron knows perfectly well that most of his MPs will ultimately back this measure, as will most of Gordon Brown's. The fact that there is now to be a free vote will make no difference whatever to the outcome.

Result: a terrible Bill which further undermines both the sanctity of human life and the role of the family will become law, and the de-Christianisation of Britain will continue apace.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

White Easter

This Easter will certainly stick in the memory. I got up at 5.30am on Easter Sunday morning to drive to the Sunrise Service in the middle of a raging blizzard. At 8am my son was out in the garden building a snowman. It was the first White Easter I can remember in my lifetime and not something I really expect to see again.

But although it was memorable in its own way, there will no doubt be plenty of debate in workplaces up and down the land this morning as to whether we really want a four-day Bank Holiday weekend this early in the year. The wintry weather was not exactly conducive either to family days out, gardening or DIY (although I did manage to get a new basement window installed in between snow and rain breaks.)

Some will no doubt advocate decoupling the holiday from the Christian festivals, as the schools have already done. But for me the logical answer would be for the churches to take the initiative and fix Easter on the first Sunday in April - rather than the current formula which puts it on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (March 20 or 21).

As well as reducing the likelihood of wintry weather, this would mean Easter would always fall within the school holidays. Furthermore because Whitsun (Pentecost) falls seven weeks after Easter, it would mean Whitsunday would always fall on the fourth Sunday in May, thus restoring the lost link between the Christian festival of Whitsun and the Spring Bank Holiday.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five go adventuring again

Yes, they're back....but presumably without the lashings of ginger beer, farmers' wives who rustle up a whole picnic in five seconds' flat without expecting payment, scary black faces staring in at the window, and horrible smelly gipsies who haven't had a bath for weeks.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Haselhurst is our top choice too

Many aeons ago before the world's financial system went into near-meltdown we were all busy obsessing about whether Michael Martin would carry on as Speaker and who his successor might be, which puts the nature of the political news cycle in perspective somewhat.

Nevertheless, I was sufficiently engaged by this fascinating political conundrum to carry out a poll, the results of which can be viewed HERE.

Before launching this poll I noted that Sir Alan Haselhurst had topped a similar poll on Iain Dale's Diary and said it would be interesting if my own poll produced the same result, given this blog's different readership.

Although my sample is much smaller than Iain's, the results as can be seen below are indeed remarkably similar, with Sir Alan topping my poll with almost exactly the same percentage as he achieved on Iain's - surely an indication of the respect in which he is held across the political spectrum.

For the record, I voted for Ken Clarke. With no disrespect to Sir Alan, I think the reputation of Parliament is now suffiently damaged it needs a big figure in every sense to help restore it to its former standing.

Iain's poll

Sir Alan Haselhurst 22.6%
Sir George Young 18.8%
Sir Menzies Campbell 12%
Frank Field 11.3%
Vince Cable 9.5%
Kenneth Clarke 9%
Alan Beith 4.1%
Michael Ancram 3.5%
Sir Patrick Cormack 3.4%
John Bercow 2.5%
Sylvia Heal 2.2%
Sir Michael Lord 1.1%

My poll

Sir Alan Haselhurst 22%
Sir Menzies Campbell 17%
Kenneth Clarke 16%
Sir George Young 15%
Margaret Beckett 8%
Sylvia Heal 6%
Alan Beith 5%
Michael Ancram 3%
Sir Patrick Cormack 1%
None of these 6%

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Belper's most famous export?

Actually this was nails, hence the name of the local football club (Belper Nailers) and the occasional use of "nailheads" as a term of abuse for the natives. But in terms of recent political history, the town where I now live is perhaps best known for being the constituency of George Brown, legendary piss artist and Labour Deputy Leader of the 1960s, who dramatically resigned from the job of Foreign Secretary (allegedly while drunk) forty years ago this week.

I always thought it was Tony Crosland who said that "George Brown drunk was a better man than Harold Wilson sober" but apparently this phrase was actually first penned by William Rees Mogg in a Times editorial. What Crosland said, a propos of the 1963 leadership contest between the two men, was that the party faced "a choice between a crook and a drunk."

For my part, I have always regarded Brown as a much-maligned chap. The oft-repeated story about him going up to the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima while under the influence and asking him for a dance is almost certainly an invention, for instance.

Possibly the most fair-minded assessment I have read on Brown's career appears on a Derbyshire wiki project with which I am currently involved called You and Yesterday. You can read it HERE.

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At our best when we are boring

My initial verdict on last Wednesday's Budget - written in a hurry between finishing work and picking my wife up from a hospital appointment - was intentionally rather tongue-in-cheek. A more considered verdict appeared on Saturday's Newcastle Journal and can be read in full HERE.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Milburn: Next election up for grabs

I am pleased to be able to carry on this blog an interview with the former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn conducted by Graham Robb, an old friend from my days as Political Editor of the Newcastle Journal.

Together with Labour supporter Nick Wallis, former Tory election candidate Graham hosts a programme called "Northern Decision Makers" which features on his new broadband TV channel.

In the interview, which is in two parts, Mr Milburn says the next general election will be the closest since 1974 and argues that it is currently "up for grabs."

While he concedes that Gordon Brown could lose, he also predicts that so long as Labour gets the over-arching narrative right and presents a message of hope, the party will win an unprecedented fourth term.

The interview also contains some further interesting thoughts from Mr Milburn on the social moblity agenda which he has continued to champion during his time outside government.

It is well worth watching, and provides further proof in my view that a place should be found for the Darlington MP back at Labour's top table.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Battle of the bloggers

Tonight's Question Time Extra on News 24 will see Tory blogfather Iain Dale going head to head with Labour Home's Alex Hilton, the man who once claimed that the raison d'etre of the Conservative Party was "lining up the entire British working class and buggering them one by one."

Should be compulsive viewing.

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Mrs and Mr Balls

I have always maintained that if there was a future Prime Minister in the Balls household, it was Yvette rather than Ed - most recently in this post published on Monday.

Today, with Ed Balls in hot water after apparently saying "So what?" to a claim that UK taxes are now the highest in history, I wonder whether the wider political commentariat might now start to realise this.

While Ed was making a fool of himself in the Chamber, and providing an open goal for David Cameron as he sought to dismantle the Budget, Yvette was doing the rounds of College Green and the TV studios presenting the Government's case in her usual cool, calm, quietly persuasive manner.

Mike Smithson goes so far as to speculate today that Balls' antics might have cost Labour the next election. I would certainly agree that the more the public sees of Balls, the less they will be inclined to vote for the party.

Balls was already deeply implicated in last autumn's election debacle, shooting his mouth off on the radio about whether "the gamble" lay in holding the election or delaying - with the clear implication that the riskier course was delay.

I believe that was the moment when the public began to turn against Brown, the moment it became clear that the decision over whether to hold the election was being very clearly determined not by the national interest but by narrow party advantage.

Gordon should have learned his lesson from that and put Balls firmly back in his box before now, but old loyalties notwithstanding, perhaps it's time he echoed the words of Clem Attlee to Harold Laski - and I use the full quote here advisedly.

"I can assure you there is widespread resentment in the Party at your activities and a period of silence on your part would be welcome."

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Boring...but not bad

I had thought of doing a blog-boycott of this year's Budget, so narcoleptic was the content, but on reflection...there are some positives to be taken from Mr Darling's package from a progressive/green point of view.

As the driver of a Vauxhall Zafira who likes the odd drop of Scotch, I am probably going to be among the people worst hit by today's announcements, but I'm entirely content that it should be so.

The 55p a bottle increase in whisky duty will in fact cost me the princely sum of around £3.20 a year, which seems a small price to pay to help curb the binge-drinking culture and do my bit towards lifting 250,000 children out of poverty.

And although I only drive a people carrier out of necessity in order for me to be able to take my growing family away for weekends along with all their assorted clobber, I think it's only right that people like me should pay more to alleviate the effects of our environmental pollution.

That said, it was undoubtedly the most politically unexciting Budget since 1997, and some papers may well not even lead on it tomorrow. Maybe that's the government's intention though.

I liked James Forsyth's take on it at Spectator Coffee House. "I suspect that the government will be quite pleased if this Budget is nothing more than a one day story.....Darling must be hoping that by hopping on the Mail’s ban the bag bandwagon, he has guaranteed himself favourable coverage in at least one paper."

I have some sympathy for Mr Darling in that Gordon Brown really "stole" this Budget last year, by pre-announcing the 2p cut in income tax.

That said, had Brown not announced this a year ago, it is a fairly moot point whether it would have happened at all, as it's hardly now the time for big tax reductions amid all the "global financial turbulence."

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Short memories

According to a poll carried out on Iain Dales' Diary, Gordon Brown is the worst Labour Chancellor ever, with 44pc of the vote compared to just 13pc for Jim Callaghan, who devalued the pound in 1967. Even allowing for the fact that many readers of Iain's blog wouldn't have been born then, some historical perspective is called for, methinks.

Norman Lamont, meanwhile, rates as the worst Tory holder of the post, with 38pc compared to 23pc for Anthony Barber. It is unclear how many people voted for David Derrick Heathcoat-Amory.

Iain also asked his readers who should be Chancellor in the "next Conservative Government." Without necessarily conceding that this is anything more than a purely hypothetical question, I voted for Vincent Cable, as he is head and shoulders over anyone else David Cameron could choose.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What price loyalty?

Iain Dale reports that the former Lib Dem candidate for Hull East in 2005 has joined the Tories, bringing the total number of such defections since the last election to seven.

People are entitled to change their minds, of course, but what I find hard to believe is that political parties so regularly display such lamentable judgement in selecting parliamentary candidates whose loyalty to their cause is so evidently skin-deep. That the Lib Dems managed to be hoodwinked seven times in this way when selecting its 2005 slate speaks volumes.

There are thousands of loyal footsoldiers out there who support the same party for decades and never even get asked to stand for their local school governing body, yet these shallow, opportunistic shysters manage to get themselves selected to stand for Parliament even though their only loyalty is to their own careers.

Am I the only person who feels this way when I read of these tales of treachery?

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Prophetic witness

At a time when one wing of the Church of England spends most of its time banging on about homosexuality while the other advocates the introduction of Sharia Law in the UK, I was pleased to discover that Lambeth Palace has launched a campaign to help people avoid excessive levels of personal debt and to emphasise that the Christian faith encourages a philosophy of "enough is enough", rather than seeking ever-increasing wealth.

This is exactly the kind of thing I want to hear from the Church in response to those who claim that the teachings of Jesus no longer have any relevance to modern life.

As Dr John Preston, the Church of England’s Resources and Stewardship Officer, and co-author of Matter of Life and Debt resources, said: “It is right for the Church of England to speak out on the issue of consumer debt, as money, wealth and possessions are mentioned in the Bible more than 2,400 times."

He might have added (so I will) that that is about 100 times more often than homosexuality.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Talking Balls

One of the most entertaining blog threads I have read over the past day or two arose from this post on Political Betting in which Mike Smithson posits the idea of Ed Balls as the next leader of the Labour Party. By the time it came to my attention, there were already 200-odd comments on the thread, so I thought I would give my thoughts here instead.

Part of what makes one of the few truly great UK blogs is Mike's habit of posing questions about unlikely political outcomes. Recent examples have included: What would happen if John McCain died before the Republican Convention, and could Al Gore yet emerge as the Democratic candidate if their August convention is deadlocked.

Although these are the kind of long-odds scenarios which fascinate betting types, they are not serious political questions. For the Democrats to turn to a loser like Gore when it has two potential winners in Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be a bit like the FA being unable to decide between Capello and Mourinho for England manager, and turning to Kevin Keegan instead.

The idea of Ed Balls as Prime Minister almost falls into the same category. To my mind, and that of many other observers both inside and outside the Labour Party, it is a manifest absurdity. But it is nevertheless apparent - not least from this Sunday Telegraph piece, that it is an idea to which some very influential people are giving serious consideration.

The theory is predicated on Gordon Brown winning the next election, promoting Balls to Chancellor, and building him up as the natural and obvious successor before handing over at some point in the next Parliament. The Telegraph piece suggests the current "obvious successor," David Miliband, does not really want the job, although I don't think that can necessarily be deduced from his failure to challenge Gordon last year.

Why, then, do I take the view that Balls is inconceivable as Labour leader and Prime Minister? Well, it's certainly nothing personal. Whenever I dealt with Ed Balls in my Lobby days - usually when he was doing the post-Budget briefing from the Press Gallery - he was no less courteous or helpful to me than any other lobby hack.

It's more an issue that I - and others - have with his extremely aggressive personal style. While this was a useful if occasionally counter-productive trait for a spin doctor seeking to ensure his master's key message got across, it always struck me as ill-befitting a frontline political role, and it does not surprise me in the least that Balls's TV appearances have invariably been so catastrophic.

The fact that Balls is being seriously spoken of as a potential Prime Minister is probably indicative of the lack of real talent in the much-vaunted younger generation of Cabinet ministers. They are all either too geeky (the Milibands), too lightweight (Purnell, Burnham) or, in the case of Balls and Douglas Alexander, much better cast as backroom boys.

The one exception, and the one current member of the Cabinet who, in my view, has both the intellect and the emotional intelligence to be a successful political leader in the 21st century is Balls' wife, Yvette Cooper, although I also think there are two more outside the current Cabinet in Jon Cruddas and Alan Milburn.

So far as Cooper is concerned, the question to my mind is not whether she could do the job, but whether her overweeningly arrogant and ambitious other half will let her.

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Justice for Scarlett

I was pleased to read this morning that the Goa Police now appear to have accepted that their original finding that 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling died from drowning despite having no water in her lungs was wrong and that she was in fact brutally raped and murdered - although it remains to be seen whether they have yet got their man.

I never met Scarlett, but her father, uncles and grandmother lived in the house next door to us when I was growing up and although it is many years since I have seen any of them, the family is very much in my thoughts at the moment.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Europe debate not played out yet

In my Preview of 2008 at the end of December, the three things I confidently predicted would not happen this year were that there would not be a general election, that the Lib Dems would not changed their leader again, and that there would not be a referendum on the EU Treaty.

And indeed there will not be. Even if the Lib Dems had joined the Tories in the voting lobbies on Wednesday night, it still would not have been enough to force the government to hold a national vote on the issue without a much larger Labour rebellion.

But while that particular issue now seems to be done and dusted, there are other circumstances which could see the question of Britain's relationship with Europe back in the domestic political spotlight - as I argue in today's Journal column.

The first is if Tony Blair takes the EU presidency and every subsequent clash between Britain and Brussels becomes viewed through the prism of the Blair-Brown feud. It would be pure political soap opera, and the press would have an absolute field day with it.

More seriously, though, if concern about economic migration to Britain from within the EU continues to rise, it could conceivably create the conditions where withdrawal from the Union once again becomes a politically viable option.

My own view on this - though it goes against the grain of my views on both Europe and immigration generally - is that the conflict between continued unlimited immigration from Eastern Europe and our finite spatial resources will not easily be reconciled.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

How did it feel?

Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of arguably the most influential record of all time, New Order's Blue Monday - known to Factory Records afiocionados simply as FAC73.

How did it feel for me when I first heard this, while sat in the 2nd floor student union bar at UCL in the spring of '83 while its pulsating bass and barely comprehensible lyrics rang out in the disco area next door? The honest answer is, absolutely terrified.

This was a record so unbearably trendy, so absolutely rooted in the dance culture that had at that time been colonised by the college's fashionable people, that it seemed to me to denote a world I could never enter. It took me a while before I overcame this instinctive aversion and added it to my record collection.

Feel free to add your own memories of the first time you heard Blue Monday in the comments. You might even care to speculate on whether the lyrics are about the death of Ian Curtis, the after-effects of cocaine, or the Falklands War, as this is something I've still not managed to work out.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Small earthquake, no-one injured

For me, the famous newspaper headline about sums up the state of the Lib Dems today following last night's rebellion over Europe. An awful lot of nonsense is being talked about Nick Clegg following the loss of three of his shadow spokesmen over the issue, but to my mind, it will do him no lasting damage and could even be seen as having strengthened the party's frontbench line-up.

I say "loss" of three spokesmen, but they are really no great loss to be honest. Justice spokesman David Heath, the most senior of the trio, is well-liked in the party, and has been a good servant to successive Lib Dem leaders, but he has hardly been setting the Thames on fire of late and giving his job to Chris Huhne has allowed Clegg to beef-up the portfolio of one of his party's few proven operators - an astute piece of political management if you ask me.

The resignations have also allowed Clegg to cut the size of his bloated Shadow Cabinet - the only reason it was the size it was being the fact that he inherited so much deadwood from Ming. This should really have been done three months ago when Clegg took over but better late than never.

The Tories, and some Lib Dem bloggers, are trying to turn this into some sort of leadership crisis for Clegg, with Huhne seemingly poised to take over the top job at last, but the idea that the party would change its leader a third time in as many years is so utterly fanciful as to be utter bollocks. Here's what I have written on Iain Dale.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

At long last....

Just when you thought that the Brown Government was going to do absolutely nothing to address the English Question...up pops today's Telegraph with the revelation that that Prime Minister has ordered a review of the infamous Barnett Formula.

The figures on how the formula awards Scotland an extra £1,500 per head in public spending per year speak for themselves, but a good practical example of how this operates was recently uncovered by the Newcastle Journal which revealed that the £16bn Crossrail project would automatically mean an additional £1.6bn for Scotland - irrespective of whether it needed it.

I have to confess I had given up hope of anything being done about it this side of the general election. In a Journal Column last November, I argued that Labour's real opportunity to reform the formula came in 1999/2000 when the party was riding high politically and public expenditure as a whole was rising so sharply that the adjustment could effectively have been concealed. Now, the politics of the situation have changed utterly, with the SNP now very much in the ascendant, while public spending is no longer rising anything like as fast.

I can only imagine that Mr Brown has either become convinced that the formula is wrong in principle - a view that would be hard to reconcile with his treatment of the issue while at the Treasury - or that he has concluded that the rising level of English discontent over the issue outweighs the obvious political risks from north of the border.

March 6 update: There appears to be some doubt over whether the Telegraph story is actually true, but if so I wouldn't blame the newspaper for that. The Government has been speaking with a forked tongue over this issue for at least a decade. My hunch, for what it's worth, is that while there may be no changes planned to the BF as yet, something is rumbling in the Whitehall undergrowth.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Seven good things in life

I love being tagged by the meme, and Kate - her of the Home Blog fame - has ensnared me with this one, so here goes:

  • Blogging. Well, obviously.

  • My family, and any time I get to spend with them.

  • Saturday evenings spent in the kitchen, concocting a curry or a Chinese over a glass of wine.

  • Sunday afternoons spent in the garden, planting things and lighting bonfires.

  • Jack and Sarah, Gavin and Stacey, and all sweet love stories.

  • Prefab Sprout.

  • Political idealism - an increasingly rare and precious commodity.

    I'm going to tag some of the best up-and-coming new(ish) blogs to be found on my blogroll, namely:

    Barnacle Bill, Unenlightened Commentary, Party Political Animal, A blog from the backroom, and Letters from a Tory

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  • Monday, March 03, 2008

    Family trees

    Readers may recall that a couple of weeks back I published a post calling for February 29 to be made a public holiday, in response to an initiative by the Big Green Switch website to encourage people to use the day to "do something green."

    My employers, who also publish the BGS, kindly agreed to support that initiative and gave everyone in the office a couple of hours off on Friday afternoon to carry out a series of green pledges ranging from switching to low-energy lightbulbs to planting trees.

    It gave me an opportunity to plant out two trees in our new garden - the old one, which was basically a paved area, didn't really allow for this - both of which have a special significance for me.

    The first is a willow tree originally purchased on Good Friday, 2006. We had gone to our local garden centre that day to stock up on new plants, intending to spend a leisurely Easter Weekend in the garden. Things didn't turn out that way though, and ever since I have wanted to plant the tree as a memorial.

    The second tree, pictured above, is a horse chestnut grown accidentally from a conker in the compost heap in the back garden of my old family home in the 1990s. Some of my happiest times were spent there gardening with my mum before the garden got too much for her, and it's nice to have the tree as a reminder of those days.

    Many other people took up the Big Green Switch challenge, and the results can be seen here. You'll find me in that slideshow somewhere....

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    Saturday, March 01, 2008

    Cameron and Clegg v the system

    My Saturday column in today's Newcastle Journal takes as its theme the current controversy over MPs expenses and the conduct of House of Commons business generally and the way in which both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both sought to exploit that.

    As the more perceptive observers of Tory politics have already noted, Mr Cameron is clearly seeking to position himself in the vanguard of a growing public desire for the modernisation of our political institutions. So, too, in his different way, is Mr Clegg.

    In this sense they are both "running against Westminster" in the same way that Barack Obama and to a lesser extent John McCain are running against their own party establishments.

    It's not good news for Gordon Brown, who fluffed the opportunity to seize the reform mantle last summer by bringing forward a rather timid constitutional reform package, long before the "dodgy donations" affair put paid to his ambitions to restore trust in British politics.

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    Woss a waste of money

    I frequently find Jonathan Ross's Friday night chatshow required viewing, but as a BBC licence-payer who presumably contributes to Wossie's huge £18m salary, last night's dreadful interview with Ashes to Ashes star Keeley Hawes left me feeling distinctly shortchanged.

    Hawes is one of the most talented young actresses this country posesses yet Ross chose to treat her with utter disdain. I don't blame Ross for the fact that he clearly fancies the arse off her - so do half the men in Britain between the ages of 30 and 45 as far I can work out - but as a professional interviewer, he perhaps could have made it a little less obvious.

    The sum total of his interview was basically as follows: Do you and Philip Glenister end up getting it on in Ashes to Ashes, what was that "lesbo thing" you were in a few years ago (it was Tipping the Velvet), and do you feel any differently about enacting lesbian sex scenes as straight sex scenes - a crass question since Hawes is on the record as saying she is bisexual.

    "We learned absolutely nothing about her," was my wife's comment afterwards. What we did learn was that Jonathan Ross, apart from being an overpaid oaf, clearly gets off a bit on the girl-on-girl stuff.

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