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27 May 2007

Water above me, water beneath me.

Good news for my half dozen readers! It's a blog-free week coming up. My wife and I are off on a narrow-boat holiday on the Rochdale Canal. We aim to cruise from Sowerby Bridge to Todmorden and back. We shall have to negotiate more than 30 manually operated locks, so the opportunities for hard physical exercise and loss of weight are enormous, but there will also be opportunities to put the weight back on in canalside pubs!

Those nice people at the meteriological office are forecasting a week of cold winds and rain (thanks guys!) but at least being forewarned is being forearmed. Since these boats are driven by standing in the open at the stern (the blunt end), yesterday I equipped myself with full waterproof clothing, i.e., hood, jacket and leggings, during which I came to the conclusion that specialist sports shops are rip-off merchants par excellence. As I browsed through my local sports shop I thought "They're having a laugh aren't they?" .. £120 for a packable waterproof coat and £90 for waterproof overtrousers? I don't think so! I went to a general utilities and clothing store in the next town and got the lot for £25.

20 May 2007

Fish Funeral

This morning I conducted a fish funeral. The largest of my three ghost carp died last night after gracing my humble fish pond for twenty years.

There was a very poor attendance at the funeral; no other fish turned up, and I acted as grave digger, pall bearer, chief mourner and priest. I consigned his earthly (watery) remains to somewhere beneath my shrubbery and despatched his spirit (if he had one) to meet his Cod.

13 May 2007

Who's taken Madeleine?

I am posting this picture here in the optimistic hope that the more it is circulated the better the chance of somebody seeing 4-year old Madeleine McCann who was abducted a week ago from a Portugese holiday apartment.
Has she been taken by some sad deluded woman who can't have a child of her own, or is this yet another example (and I can hardly dare entertain the thought) of a paedophile's sick and evil mind?
My thoughts and prayers go out to her parents.
I know they are getting a lot of support, and several high-profile business people and football stars have combined to offer a huge reward for information leading to Maddy's return.

11 May 2007

'Bye Tony - Hi Gordon!

Well, now it's official: Tony Blair has given notice of his intention to resign as Prime Minister and Labour Leader on 27th June.

Gordon Brown has commenced his campaign to be elected as Leader, and thus Prime Minister. (A foregone conclusion)

Conservative Leader David Cameron has described the Blair Government as The Government of the Living Dead.

Cameron's shadow Foreign Secretary William Haigh has called for a General Election immediately following the succession of Gordon Brown to the Premiership, conveniently forgetting that when John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher after whe was pushed out by her Party no such General Election took place then!

Those of you who remember the 1950s boys' comic The Eagle featuring Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future might agree with me that William Haigh is actually an alien from outer space and in a former life held a position as The Mekon - leader of The Treens. During a 1997 reincarnation as one of the many Conservative Leaders (before Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard and the current David Cameron) I published this photograph on my website to support my belief!

I have mixed feelings about Tony Blair's departure. In many ways he was a great Prime Minister and his government introduced the National Minimum Wage, Devolved Government (though sadly only for Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland - not England), Family Tax Credits, independence for the Bank of England (no more politically inspired interest rate adjustments), high employment, more money into education and the NHS, a stable economy, pensioners' winter fuel payments and pensioners' free local bus travel. His greatest achievement by far was to achieve the impossible, i.e., peace in Northern Ireland with a devolved government in which hard line Protestant Unionists and Catholics and ex-IRA terrorists have resolved to work together for a peaceful and democratic Northern Ireland. The Ballot has replaced the Bullet.

The supreme tragedy is that all of this potentially great legacy has been totally buried by Blair's gravest error of judgement, namely the Iraq debacle. It is for this that he is remembered and for which the British people will not readily forgive him.

05 May 2007

Florida-style Voting Chaos in Scotland

The elections held in the UK on Thursday 3rd May were a farce. Hundreds of thousands of votes in Scotland were taken out of the system because new electronic scanners failed to recognise accurately what voters had written on their ballot papers. There is now to be an inquiry. I suppose that until or unless it is decided what to do with those votes we cannot be sure that the final outcome is wholly what the voters wanted. If the unused votes confirm the pattern of the used votes then it is clear that Tony Blair has been given a big kick in the backside and the Scottish Nationalist Party has emerged as triumphant, now enjoying the rare experience of being the largest Party in the Scottish Parliament. To achieve a working government, however, they will still have to create a Coalition with another Party or Parties. The SNP's declared intention is to hold a Referendum by 2010 on whether or not Scotland should secede from their 300-year old union with England and become an independent Country.

Adding to the farce cause by the high-tech counting system was the confusion over two different ways of registering a vote on a single ballot paper: for the Scottish Parliament you had to place a cross against one candidate as constituency MSP, and another cross against a regional Party List candidate. For the Scottish local council votes the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system was being used, so on this part of the ballot sheet voters were expected to write 1,2,3 etc. etc. against candidates in order of preference.

Labour also did badly in the Welsh Assembly elections and the Welsh Nationalists (Plaid Cymru) put on a reasonable showing. To continue in power Labour will have to form a Coalition with another Party or Parties.

In England the local council elections produced major losses for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but only modest gains for the Conservatives.

Across the UK as a whole the results are a complete mish-mash and we now hold the distinction of having a greater variety of voting systems all operating at once than in any other country. I always said our "First past the post" system was undemocratic and should be replaced by something more representative - some form of Proportional Representation, or at least the Single Transferable Vote - but what Blair's government has come up with over the years is a hotch-potch of systems for different regions and different elections. On the 3rd May there were no fewer than four different voting systems in operation.

I wonder how much more stupid we are going to get.

02 May 2007

Conservative Party Appeal to Voters (do they?)

Tomorrow (3rd May) UK electors go to the polls to elect Local Councils in England, and in Scotland and Wales it is a kind of mini General Election with elections for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. I'm hoping there will be a good turnout as political apathy is in danger of reaching epidemic proportions. What's the good of democracy if you don't use it? And what's the good of complaining if you don't vote.

I watched a Conservative Party election broadcast on TV the other night and Conservative Leader David Cameron was banging on about Tony Blair's record on the National Health Service. Forgive me if I'm missing something here, but by what stretch of the imagination do my local District Councillors have anything to do with the National Health Service?!

How sensible is it to make a judgement on who should run our local authority based on national issues that are the business of the Government? It's nonsensical, and if our political leaders are trying to persuade us to do that, then they are treating us like idiots (which is probably why so few of us turn out to vote these days).

The sad thing is that there are indeed many of us who will take the opportunity to give the governing Party a good kicking at these local elections, and we can expect to see a lot of Labour Councillors losing their seats based on voters' disillusionment over Iraq and the "cash for peerages" allegations currently being investigated.