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Thursday, September 28, 2006

 

Annual Whiskey Olympics Cancelled

I hear that the SDLP have cancelled their conference.

I wonder if that had anything to do with its' proposed start date- 24th November?

Monday, September 25, 2006

 

Hell Hath No Fury...

I love this story. Andrew Neils' minions were doing an OB on it from G-Mex this afternoon and now it's bloggable.

...Cherie Blair accused Gordon Brown of lying during his keynote Labour conference speech.
Bloomberg news agency reported that she said "well that's a lie" when she heard the chancellor saying it had been a privilege to work with Tony Blair.

No 10 denies the claim
No really. You couldn't make this up (or could you, Bloomberg?)

 

Praguetory: Political Joke Du Jour

Praguetory: Political Joke Du Jour

Enjoy.

 

Londonistan?

Philip Johnston pens a thoughtful piece in the opinion pages of this mornings' Telegraph. East London is maybe about to get a Mega Mosque.

It will be the largest place of worship in Europe, a gigantic three-storey Islamic centre, with schools and other facilities, able to hold at least 40,000 worshippers and up to 70,000 if necessary.

It will be called the London Markaz and it is intended to be a significant Islamic landmark whose prominence and stature will be enhanced by its proximity to the Olympic site. When television viewers around the world see aerial views of the stadium during the opening ceremony in six years' time, the most prominent religious building in the camera shot will not be one of the city's iconic churches that have shaped the nation's history, such as St Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, but the mega-mosque.

I have to admit that the imagery does not bother me. I have lived in Bow and Mile End and anyone who thinks the history of the East End is strictly of WASP Pearly Kings and Queens is delusional. The culinary geography of the routes west into the City tells of waves of new arrivals bringing first bagels and then baltis. What is concerning is who is behind the proposals:
Its backers are the Tablighi Jamaat, a missionary organisation that says it is non-political and peaceful. Yet a senior FBI anti-terrorism official has called it a recruiting ground for al-Qa'eda, and the French secret services described it as "an antechamber for fundamentalism". Its current European headquarters are in Dewsbury, home town of Mohammed Siddique Khan, leader of the July 7 suicide bombers, who attended the local mosque.
I haven't made my mind up whether this is kerb-painting on a grand scale or a welcome sign of cultural confidence. That determination will be suspended until the memory fades of so-called Muslim areas.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

 

Tory Boy

Given the buzz in local blogsphere that the NI Tories have generated of late I feel it is time, dear reader, to determine just how true blue we all are. As luck will have it The Independent has gone all Cosmo and provided a quiz.

Let me know how you get on.

 

Europe Wins

Today I understood the limits of my pan-European identity. After the Ryder Cup victory I realised that the UK can live with a Golfing Europe as opposed to a Federal Europe.

Keep your Euro, your pretend diplomatic service, your constitution and your stately ambitions all I want is a Europe of stroke play golfers. Hell, if the Turks can play let them join in!

I just want to know can we opt out of everything except the slacks and tank tops?

Friday, September 22, 2006

 

Fair Cop

Discrimination is an ugly blight on any society, worse when it is embedded by legislation and supported by a government. It is appalling when employment practices deemed unlawful elsewhere in the same country are imposed on another.

At least Gloustershire Police have had the good grace to apologise for the "distress caused" to those it discriminated against. I wait with baited breath the apology from the Police Service of Northern Ireland to those similarly disadvantaged by the aberation that is 50/50 recruitment.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

 

Blog shall speak peace unto Blog

My licence fee reminder arrived yesterday. Just as my resentment began to fester the BBC posted this about NI political blogging. All the usual suspects were there including yours truely:
the DUP's blog presence is largely limited with the "We Perish If We Yield" blog espousing the party's views
Do I espouse?

 

Hain Watch#2

"I would like to see it done on my watch"- Peter Hain on "Hearts & Minds" in response to questioning about a November deal.

"I would like a deal to help my campaign to be Deputy PM"- what Peter Hain was thinking on "Hearts & Minds" when questioned about a November deal.

This man is ghastly. Blotting his CV and blighting his advancement is reason enough to stymie his bogus timetable. Nevermind the bigger issues of potential ministers refusing to endorse policing whilst their organisation still dabbles in criminality and the anti-democratic and sectarian assembly structures. So his final televised "threat" that the in the week after 24th November he will introduce legislation disolving that assembly is a matter for celebration not quaking.

Pity we have to wait 'till then.

 

Harsh But Fair?

Samy Wilson has had a pop at Lembit Opik. Seemingly the Montgomeryshire MP proved himself an "utter fool" on Good Morning Ulster.

Maybe, but if his media agent (yes media agent) is to believed
Lembit is a seasoned regular on many television programmes including This Morning, Have I Got News for You, Newsnight, and the Wright Stuff on five. Lembit is also a popular choice for many corporate speaking engagements.

His interests include Astronomy (he has been actively promoting awareness of the threat to earth from asteroids and meteors), flying (particular interest in gliders), motorbikes, and has even turned his hand to stand up comedy. He speaks fluent Estonian and is learning Welsh.
I'll reserve comment on Lembits' foolishness or otherwise until I see his stand up routine.

 

Former Minister Joins NI Tories

The NI Conservatives have a new scalp. Former junior minister at the Office of the First Minister/ Deputy First Minister James Leslie has called a day on his association with the floundering UUP and thrown his lot in with Camerons’ Tories. The BBC reports that:
Mr Leslie said the main reason for his decision to leave was his strong support for Conservative values.

"To get serious policy development you need the resources of a national party.

"You can see that clearly in all the political parties in Northern Ireland, there is no serious or fresh thinking."
I know James Leslie, I canvassed for him in North Antrim and was impressed that someone of his background and ability was willing to put up for Westminster against Dr Paisley. That ability was put into sharp relief when he was in the company of most of the UUP North Antrim machine- the same association that thought deselecting James and replacing him with James Currie for the 2003 Assembly elections was a good move. The seat was lost to Sinn Fein.

I wish James well in whatever direction his new party takes him. I understand the desire to be involved in national politics and have to admit to being very tempted by the NI Tories. However, experience of the last Tory government and their stewardship of the process before Labour arrived in 1997 make me wary.

Readers may recall that the Belfast Agreement came from a Talks process where the delegates were elected. The NI Tories stood in that election but were hampered somewhat by Sir Patrick Mayhews' assertion that should any of their candidates (Mr Shipley-Dalton included) be elected they would not need to attend the talks as the Conservative SoS would represent both the party and government interest. Unsurprisingly, no local Tories were returned.

I am a unionist who believes that unionist success will arrive when the Union is secure and unionist parties are therefore redundant. At that point I will happily offer my services to Smith Square. Until then any support for the local Tories will only be forthcoming if they can show a real input into the national partys' NI policy. It may be that only once a Tory SoS is back in Hillsborough can this influence be demonstrated.

I might have been a Young Unionist but I may yet be an old Tory.

UPDATE: Belfast Telegraph interview here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

 

This Afternoons' Exercise

Discuss Papal Infallibility in the context of Papal Apology. Please, whatever you do, avoid ANY criticism of Islam whatsoever. Cartoons, with or without Danish captions, will NOT be accepted.

Friday, September 15, 2006

 

Unintended consequences of appeasement

UK deployments in the "War Against Terror" have reached a level where the extra troops needed to stabilise Afghanistan cannot be found from within the British Army. The operation against the Taliban is, in any event, a multi-national affair run by NATO so one would expect the allies to send what help the stretched UK and Canadian forces require. Not So.

The BBC is reporting that NATO is struggling to find the necessary reinforcements of some 2500 men. Strange then that next March the British government is disbanding three battalions of specialist internal security infantry.

The duplicity in the governments' approach to terror is highlighted by the treatment of the Home Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment. Trained men, ready to serve are being paid off at a time when their colleagues in 1RIR are part of the dangerously undermanned Afghan adventure. Why? Quite simply to appease Republicans and their fellow travellers.

I'm not suggesting that all three threatened battalions be retained and used as world wide service troops but that the RIR become a two battalion regiment. Both battalions would serve world wide with the "new" 2RIR being drawn from the current Home Service troops who wish to keep soldiering. This is both consistent with the recent Army reorganisation and the current military requirements. It is not, however, consistent with the political requirements of Irish republicanism. For that reason UK, Canadian and Polish troops are disadvantaged in the current fight with the Taliban. Perhaps they will drop Mr Adams a thank you card from Helmand.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

 

Thanks Clare!

Clare Short is not an obvious friend of the union. Nor is she the first Labour MP who comes to mind when a DUP strategy needs advancing. Her XMG roots have long coloured her views on Northern Ireland, leading to a rose tinted view of the murderers dedicated to its' destruction. Yet, dear reader, it is she who has started the campaign to put the DUP at the heart of UK political life.

Ms Short is to abandon her seat to campaign for a hung parliament. Seemingly
She said she would campaign for a hung Parliament, where no party had overall control.

Labour should hold a third of the seats, the Tories a third and the rest should be made up of Greens and other parties, the 60-year-old claimed.

The Greens will not win any Westminster seats whilst "other parties" must include those already represented in the House of Commons. Given the politics of devolution in Scotland and Wales it is inconceivable that either the SNP or Plaid would come to the aid of a Brown-led Labour Party short of a majority. The LibDems would demand a fully blown coalition and PR for Westminster. The DUP with 10 (yes count them, 10) members could be bought of by measures which would not affect Labours' electability nor hamper its' social program.

Any wonder the November "deadline" isn't taken seriously?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

 

D'oh #2

I was driving to work this morning (ironically in deepest East Londonderry) and for a little light relief tuned into Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio Ulster. Interestingly enough he was interviewing the local MP, Gregory Campbell.

So far so good, Campbell is a first class politician with an excellent campaigning record. I know the constituency well and know his hard work has made the seat safe. Given this I nearly drove into the River Roe when he came out with this (reported here):
Mr Campbell said the prisoners would have to show they did not advocate criminality.

If they did, he said, they could be considered for membership of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

"They have to demonstrate that they are repentant and they have to show that they do not advocate that sort of activities," he said.

"If so, they could then be considered, only if they demonstrate that, if they don't, they should not."

The response from DUP HQ was swift
"DUP policy in relation to policing is that there can be no question of a two tier policing system, particularly where terrorists, past or present are attempting to establish their own systems of justice through Community Restorative Justice Schemes," the statement said.

"We do not advocate or support the weakening of vetting procedures for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the party does not support terrorist prisoners with convictions for murder and other serious criminal offences joining the police."
All politicians drop the ball occasionally (examples here) and whilst this might not be in the "feeding ones' daughter a BSE burger" category, in terms of what currently passes for NI politics it is a pretty big clanger. Perhaps Gregory Campbell should admit he made a mistake and row in behind what is clearly party policy. Otherwise this could run and run.

Monday, September 11, 2006

 

Madchester La, la, la

This jumped out from The Sunday Times. I was a student at Manchester between 1988 and 1991 which nicely coincided with baggy jeans, the Hacienda, The Stone Roses et al. Suffice to say Ballymena Academy it was not.

The news about world class research and the ability to attract Nobel Prize winners is all very well but I suspect that Manchesters' popularity lies more in the extra curricular activities the city offers. Jonathan Milne perhaps hit the nail on the head
Its students have a reputation for sex and drug-taking and the city has produced some of Britain’s best-known bands. Now the pull of Manchester has been recognised with its naming today as Sunday Times University of the Year
Apparently my alma mater has changed little since I said a tearful farewell back in the early '90's
Research quoted in the Sunday Times University Survival Guide, published in today’s Magazine, finds its students are the most fashion-conscious and that the city has the best reputation for overall student lifestyle (it also finds they are national leaders in sex and drug-taking, based on a 1999 survey by the Adam Smith Institute), while the city also has a lively gay scene.
Ah, my salad days!

 

9/11

I invite readers to take a moment to reflect on what happened in New York and DC 5 years ago.

Friday, September 08, 2006

 

Another Policing Debate

There is no doubt that policing will consume a great deal of negotiators' time at the October talks. Whilst it seems that there may be agreement on the structure of a local Justice Department the timing of its' creation is still open to discussion.

Readers may be aware of the increasing powers of the Welsh Assembly contained in The Government of Wales Act. The greedy AMs also have their eyes on policing. Significantly this comes in the context of the aborted police reorganisation which the Home Office botched on Wales’s' behalf.

Any bets on who gets policing powers first? What about odds for and against Stormont or Cardiff Bay?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

 

Juan Carlos, Your Boys Took One Hell of a Beating!



And just to help our Spanish visitors sing along (with thanks to DN over on Slugger)

Los ojos de mina han visto que la gloria del espana 82..
cuando es poca Irlanda del Norte el mundo qué podríamos hacer ..
ahora el lawrie es el líder y venía después de que usted ..
y éste sea lo que cantamos…

no somos el Brasil que somos Irlanda del Norte
no somos el Brasil somos Irlanda del Norte
no somos el Brasil somos Irlanda del Norte
pero es todo el igual a mí

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

 

"Drowning Not Waving"

The Prime Minister is having a bad day. Starting with the leak this morning of the proposed date next May for his departure and ending up with a mass resignation of flunkies.

Now, I have to admit to having a hand in the odd leadership destabilisation operation so my observations come as a practitioner of this particular black art. Let no one be fooled that the underlings who jumped this evening were acting alone. The hand of he who would be king is all over this. Imagine being a lowly PPS being promised jam tomorrow in a Brown administration in return for a period on the backbenches at the fag end of Blairs' premiership. That promise would have to come from someone who could deliver. That promise would have had to come from Gordon Brown.

Today was about creating the momentum towards a Brown succession by putting the skids under the incumbent. Like a snowball hurtling down an Alpine hillside the end of Blair is speeding to its' inevitable conclusion. The only mystery is when that end comes.

Political plotting is heavily influenced by politicians' survival reflex and in Scotland and Wales the comrades are worried. The devolution elections are due in May 2007 and does anyone doubt that the Celtic fringe will use these mid-terms to punish Labour? Unless of course that party is under new management. And unless that management has a distinctly non English hue. In this Bloggers’ view Brown moves next door into number 10 before Christmas 2006.

What for our little local difficulty? Blair goes, Hain moves and talk of deadlines and joint stewardship seem as convincing as "I'm going to serve a full term". Oh, and by the way Scotland and Wales may be joined by another devolution election in May 2007...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

 

Royal Irish squaddie killed in Afghanistan

The BBC
is reporting the death of a soldier serving with 1 RIR in Afghanistan. Given the end of Home Service patrols this death is a stark reminder of the dangers faced by the Regiment abroad.

Our thoughts should be with Ranger Draivas' family and comrades.

UPDATE: The soldier injured alongside Ranger Draivas on Friday has today died of his injuries.

Friday, September 01, 2006

 

Next stop Little Britain?


 

Hands of my cash!

I am self employed and as such pay my income tax bill in two chunks each year. This painful experience every January and July makes me begrudge every single pound taken by a profligate government. Two recent tax related stories therefore aroused my interest (to say nothing of my ire).

The Daily Telegraph is reporting the potential cost of electing a Green "Conservative" government to replace the current shower. Seemingly
Huge rises in taxes on motorists and air travel could be imposed by an incoming Conservative government
but this is ok as apparently
the Tories would create a 21st century transport system, possibly through building 360 mph "magnetic levitation" trainlines
George Osborne is keen because
"With a MagLev railway system in Britain, we would hardly need domestic flights"
Unless you live in, say, Northern Ireland. Perhaps the Tories are going to build a tunnel to Scotland.

The second piece concerns the blackmail over domestic rating currently being committed by the NIO. The BBC are reporting the opposition by NIO finance minister David Hanson to capping the bills of rate payers as happens everywhere else in the United Kingdom. The minister is
opposed to a cap in principle
The minister, like his organ grinder, represents a Welsh constituency. His local authority is the Labour controlled Flintshire County Council led by one Derek Darlington. I have e-mailed Mr Darlington to express concern at his MPs' views on local government funding. I would suggest others do the same.

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