August 29, 2016
by Paul
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We are extraordinarily blessed

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I’ve been having thoughts about time and life recently. This is all a bit random and disjointed, but I felt I had to get it down on the screen.

When you look a beautiful view, it’s easy to assume that it’s just a beautiful view which you can always look at. The scary thought is that it will still be there when you are gone. Other people will see it. But all the people on the earth could just disappear in some awful accident and the view might still be there but no one could enjoy it. The point is that the view is only beautiful because you are there to see it – you have working eyes that can take it in – and you have a brain that can appreciate its beauty. Otherwise it would be just there.

This week, NASA announced the discovery of an Earth-like planet, Kepler-186f, that might be able to support water. It’s 500 light years from the earth. That means (with apologies to physicists) that if you look at it through a telescope, you’re seeing light which left the planet when Henry VIII was king.

I assume that there is some form of life, maybe intelligent, somewhere else in the Universe. But here on earth we are extraordinarily blessed to be alive, by sheer luck, at the time when we are evolved, and the planet and its creatures are evolved, after millions of years of evolution, to such a degree as we are and they are. We should never forget – we are very lucky to be alive now and we must, therefore, be careful with our lives and the lives of others. Our lives are so fragile, and the difference between life and death is so huge.

I have been very moved by reports of deaths recently – in Syria, on the A34, on Newquay’s Fistral beach and on Camber Sands. May all those who passed away rest in peace and I offer my deepest sympathy to their family and friends.

But when you see such tragic reports, it reminds you how lucky we are to be alive and how precious life is.

Thinking about things in such a large perspective, it is tempting to agree with Freddie Mercury that “nothing really matters”. But it really matters that we value our lives and the lives of all others with whom we share this extraordinarily beautiful Planet Earth.

Picture: My view of Portsmouth from Havant.

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August 29, 2016
by Paul
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Another Liberal hero goes to that “Two horse race” in the sky

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A whole series of my local Liberal heroes have been leaving us over the last few years. Just recently we lost Chris Hall. Chris signed me up to join the Liberal Democrats in 1992 (long story – I joined the Liberal Party in 1987 but they didn’t have a computerised reminder system so I lapsed a few years afterwards). He just stood in my house with his lovely smile and paused until the silence was unbearable and I said “Oh well I’d better sign up as a member then”. I later called this silence his “unctuous silence routine”, which tickled him.

Chris (pictured above, left, receiving a lifetime achievement award, from Lorely Burt and Judith Bunting, with another deceased local hero Mike James) was a real friend to me in the LibDems. We went round many streets together, often in faraway places like Kintbury, and had many laughs together.

He was a real hard worker for the Lib Dems but was always laughing and smiling while he worked. He was the definition of “affable”.

The biggest thing about Chris was that he had a real deep affection for Newbury and its people. He loved the little quaint places and Newbury’s characters. He would often chuckle as he remembered little incidents. The one that stands out is the tale he told, with great affection, of the old “Adam and Eve” pub, the site of which is now approximately covered by Burger King in Greenham Road. He used to love to recall how you’d go in and ask for a pint of beer at the bar, and then the old lady would struggle slowly and painstakingly down the many steep and narrow steps to the cellar and come back several minutes later with a jug from which she would pour your pint of beer.

It was those sorts of charming old world ways that Chris loved to recall.

I will never forget his little chuckle. Thank you Chris, and rest in peace!

August 22, 2016
by Paul
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Can the nation somehow unite around the values represented by Money Saving Expert, NSPCC, TK Maxx and M&S?

Our esteemed editor, Caron, returned yesterday from a very well earned holiday and, revitalised by sun-soaked walks on Rosemarkie Beach, underscored the party’s need not to “go wobbly on the EU“. She concluded:

The future prosperity of our country depends on us winning these hearts and minds and we need to get on with it. We need to provide the glue that helps this very divided country to come back together and solve the problems it faces.

According to research based on years of mass polling by YouGov, uniting the country could boil down to somehow responding to the common themes represented by four brands: Money Saving Expert, NSPCC, TK Maxx and M&S.

Based on affinities identified in the polling, Emily James, chief strategy officer at advertising agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R says that the brands that are most likely to determine whether someone voted Leave or Remain in the referendum are: Continue Reading →

August 22, 2016
by Paul
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What happened with Paul McCartney and John Lennon in the Seventies?

Radio 2’s “Sounds of the Seventies” with Johnnie Walker this week features an interview with Richard White, who has written “Come Together: Lennon and McCartney’s Road to Reunion“. The interview is a must-listen for anyone interested in the Beatles and what happened with the “Fab Four” after the great band broke up. There are some very interesting historical perspectives which don’t necessarily fit the narrative in the media at the time. For example: Did Yoko Ono break up the Beatles? – No it was probably Alan Klein. Were McCartney and Lennon at each others’ throats for the seventies? – Well no, the truth (based on interviews with a shedload of people who were close to the quartet for many years) seems a little more nuanced than that.

You can listen to the show via BBC iPlayer here for the next 29 days.

August 22, 2016
by Paul
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Caller to C-Span admits racism and is gently advised on how to improve his view of black people

On C-Span’s Washington Journal, Demos President, Heather McGhee listens patiently to a caller who admits their racism towards black people. Her calm response is very refreshing and positive. She thanks the caller for his honesty and advises ways in which he can rebalance his view of black people.

I’ve created this clip on C-Span, which shows the exchange:

August 17, 2016
by Paul
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While Brexit remains a mystery, ministers indulge in empire building and turf wars

The Guardian reports:

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, made an attempted power grab on key areas of Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office, writing to his colleague and the prime minister, Theresa May, in an effort to wrest control of Britain’s overseas economic policy, a leaked letter has revealed.

Tensions have been escalating between the Foreign Office and Fox’s Department for International Trade, but the former defence secretary’s suggestion has apparently been given short shrift by No 10, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Continue Reading →

August 10, 2016
by Paul
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Owen Smith fishing with his ‘rich Tory friends’ – when Twitter gets rather silly



The tweet above, and others like it, caught my eye.

Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith is pictured on a fishing trip with rich Tory MPs Richard Benyon and Charles Walker. “Not much socialism there” was one tweeted comment.

So, the inference is that Owen Smith has lots of rich Tory chums and goes on fishing trips with them. So he can’t possibly be a socialist, or even a true “new Labour” man. Continue Reading →

August 10, 2016
by Paul
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What will the Presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump be like?

In the US, the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates has proposed three televised Presidential debates in September and October.

It is fascinating to imagine how these will go. On the one hand we’ll have the ultimate cool-headed policy wonk in Hillary. On the other we will have the hot-headed, insult-firing Trump. Continue Reading →

August 10, 2016
by Paul
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Invoking Article 50 could be a disaster for the UK

With the exception of the overseas French territory of Saint Barthélemy, no country has ever left the European Union. Greenland left its predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1985. Exit negotiations, in that case, took more than 100 meetings over three years. Given that the EEC was a slimmer organisation than the EU, that negotiations were mainly over one subject – fish – and that Greenland has a population smaller than Bracknell or Bury, this should set alarm bells ringing for the UK. Continue Reading →

July 25, 2016
by Paul
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Great film about President Lyndon Johnson

All the way is a brilliant film about the first year of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidency, from just after the assassination of JFK until the re-election of LBJ.

Bryan Cranston is great as the irascible and passionate president. The film particularly shows how he was the ultimate Capitol Hill fixer – particularly as he gets the Civil Rights Act through despite stiff opposition from Southern Democrats.

This is definitely worth a watch – and you can do so via Sky Atlantic for the next few days.

July 25, 2016
by Paul
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Brexit: The invocation of Article 50 can be reversed

In May, the House of Lords select committee on the European Union published a detailed document on the process of withdrawing from the EU.

Among other things, the committee concluded that:

…we have no reason to believe that the requirement for legislative consent for its repeal would not apply to all the devolved nations.

-That is, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The committee also concluded that, once Article 50 of Lisbon Treaty has been invoked, it can be reversed before the end of the two year negotiating period: Continue Reading →