Friday, December 23, 2005

Hear my review of the year podcast!

Since blogging is now a bit old hat, I've taken a leap into the world of the latest internet buzzword - podcasting!

2005 has been an eventful year in politics with a General Election, the London bombings and a Tory leadership race with more twists and turns than the San Marino Grand Prix.

But will it be remembered in the longer-term for Tony Blair's re-election for a third term as Prime Minister, or David Cameron's election as Tory leader?

You can hear my review of the political year 2005 by going to this page and clicking on click here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Cameron or Davis?

As a bit of a lefty liberal, I'm not sure I'm qualified to pass a judgement on who ought to be Tory leader, but suffice to say I think either candidate would be an improvement on Major, Hague, IDS and Howard. Anyone who is interested in reading my views in greater detail can find them here.

The amount of media interest in the contest seems to me an indication that politics is getting back to normal after the long intermission of the Blair years, and that the next election will see the kind of close contest between the Conservatives and Labour we routinely saw in the 60s and 70s.

Monday, November 14, 2005

English Parliament campaigners put me on the spot!

As readers of this blog will know I support the Campaign for an English Parliament as a means of balancing our topsy-turvy constitution which gives Scottish and Welsh MPs a say over English affairs but no corresponding say for English MPs over Scotland and Wales. Now the CEP's Gareth Young has carried out a wide-ranging interview with me on the issue which can be read on the campaign newsblog.

In return Gareth has kindly admitted me to the Witanagemot Club which is a corner of the blogosphere devoted to exploring the issues around English political identity.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Blair's vanity could wreck Labour

What are we to make of this year's Labour Party Conference? The week began with an apparent consensus between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown over their proposed "orderly handover" but the feeling at the end was that the Prime Minister was set to go "on and on."

Now my old lobby colleague Paddy Hennessy of the Sunday Tel has revealed that the Blairites are talking yet again of putting up Alan Milburn as a rival contender for the leadership, even though he has twice walked away from the political frontline. Read the full story here.

My own view on this is that if Blair does not make way for Brown by 2007 he risks causing a calamitous split in the party that will lose it the next General Election. I explore this further in my post-conference column.

A similar viewpoint came from David Clark - not a journalist by background but increasingly one of the country's most perceptive political commentators - on Guardian Unlimited.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Keep cricket free-to-air!

So England have won back the Ashes at last. I think on balance we deserved it, although you have to admire the way the Aussies fought to the bitter end even though they were clearly the lesser side. In the end, it really came down to that 2-run victory in the Second Test. If we'd gone 2-0 down then, it would have been game over.

But for many cricket lovers, this is a bitter sweet moment, with cricket about to disappear from our TV screens for four years at the very moment it has regained its place in the national psyche.

The blame for this lies squarely with the New Labour Government which has allowed the systematic rape of our sporting "crown jewels" by the Aussie presss baron Rupert Murdoch, the most pernicious influence on British public life over the last 30 years.

Having ruined the Sunday Times, which at one time was the best newspaper in the world, he's now ruining British sport - and New Labour, terrified that he will turn on them in the way he turned on Neil Kinnock and John Major, is letting him do it.

A campaign has now been launched called Keep Cricket Free which aims to put political pressure on Blair and Co to review the deal between the English Cricket Board and Sky TV.

You can find their site and sign their petition here

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mo was too good for the likes of Blair

Hard on the heels of the death of Robin Cook comes the loss of Mo Mowlam, the most popular and charismatic politician in the New Labour firmament.

That was her problem of course. I was in the conference hall that day in 1998 when Mo got a standing ovation in the middle of Blair's speech, and I am convinced her career was doomed from that moment on.

The people around Blair were terrified of her popularity and thereafter became determined to cut her down to size.

I expand on these points in a full appreciation of Mo's career published on the thisis network of websites which can be read here

Thursday, August 18, 2005

We need a fair voting system

The Electoral Reform Society has picked up on a column I wrote in the wake of the May 5 General Election about how the electoral system had once again produced a skewed result. It's good of them to include little old me in a list that contains such luminaries of political journalism as Mike White, Andy Grice and Peter Riddell. You can read it by clicking here and then scrolling down to May 14.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Good times!

This is a picture of me, my wife Gill and son George doing one of our favourite things - going walking in Derbyshire!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Robin Cook 1946-2005

Robin Cook was the politician whose views probably most closely echoed my own (although he wouldn't have agreed with me about English devolution!) His death is a huge tragedy and in my view leaves a real hole at the heart of the Labour movement.

The best piece I have so far seen on this came from David Clark (a former policy adviser) in the Guardian, which can be read at the peerless Guardian Unlimited site.

My own view is that Robin would have returned to government under Gordon Brown once the great charlatan had taken his leave of No 10, probably as some kind of constitutional affairs overlord. Unlike Mr Blair, Mr Brown regards this agenda as vitally important and is understood to be considering a number of options for radical reform.

You can read my full take on Robin's career here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The real Watership Down

As you will see from my profile I'm a bit of a fan of Richard Adams' Watership Down. When I was younger and living in the South I often planned to go walking there but somehow never got round to it. Now a guy called called Chris Boyce has put together an amazing site which takes you through the real locations in the book. You can find it here

My own contribution to the mass of web stuff surrounding Watership Down, originally published on the thisis sites in April, will be back online shortly.

Monday, May 16, 2005

England needs a voice

The Campaign for an English Parliament has picked up on some stuff I wrote in the Newcastle Journal about the "democratic deficit" in England compared to Scotland and Wales. For years I supported the idea of regional assemblies as a means of addressing this, but the referendum in the North-East last November sort of blew this out of the water somewhat. Meanwhile, Scottish and Welsh MPs continue to have a big say over how public services are funded and managed in England, while English MPs have no such say over how they are delivered in Scotland and Wales. This is not really politically sustainable in the long term. The recent election result narrowly missed landing us in a situation where Labour's entire Parliamentary majority was dependent on the votes of Welsh and Scottish Labour MPs - but this is bound to happen at some future point unless the problem is addressed.

You can access the CEP newsblog here.

Worst Band Names Ever?

My good friend David Gladwin and I had a long email debate the other day about the worst band names of all time. He reckoned Prefab Sprout deserved the accolade, arguing that the negative vibes associated with these two words actually inhibited their chart success. My own nomination went to Hear'Say - what on earth was that apostrophe all about?

The best online discussion I have read about this vital issue can be found here

Thursday, May 12, 2005

6 May 2005 - Election Verdict

This year's General Election was the first since 1992 that I have not covered from Westminster but I continued to comment on the campaign through a daily commentary on the thisis sites and also through my newspaper columns. You can read my verdict on Mr Blair's underwhelming victory here, on the Newcastle Journal site.