November 17, 2015
by Paul

I’m proud of my party today

Tim Farron issued a very good statement today. It completed a great act of leadership. Chris Rennard issued a very good, dignified response. I also commend Sal Brinton’s great role in the last few days.

I’m proud of our party as a result of this latest episode.

I’m proud that 200+ members can carry out a democratic exercise to voice the pain of many members over what happened.

I’m proud of Tim Farron, Chris Rennard and Sal Brinton that they resolved the issue with such dignity and mutual respect.

November 15, 2015
by Paul

Cuttlefish on the Hamble shoreline

Walking along the eastern shoreline of the Hamble estuary near Warsash today, we noticed an extraordinarily high number of cuttlebones. My photo below shows eleven which I collected over about 100 metres of tideline. I think I could have collected 50 at least during our 1-2 mile walk.

So there seems to be an unusually high population of cuttlefish around the Solent. Or at least, at the moment, a large number of cuttlefish around there are dying and shedding their cuttlebones.

Cuttlefish are extraordinarily-looking animals (see above). It is quite something to imagine all the cuttlefish which were the previous owners of all the cuttlebones we saw today.

November 15, 2015
by Paul

Special party conference triggered – all members will be able to attend and vote

On Thursday, Liberal Democrat Voice reported that Chris Rennard was elected to represent the party’s House of Lords group on the Federal Executive. Since then, there has been strong disquiet, to put it mildly, and efforts have been going on to collect the necessary number of signatures to call a special party conference.

Mark Pack reported last night:

More than the necessary 200 signatures have been gathered and the party’s Federal Conference Committee (FCC) has started planning for holding the special conference. Continue Reading →

November 15, 2015
by Paul

“Steve Jobs” – rather painful

I went to see the movie “Steve Jobs” this evening.

I didn’t really like it. One does like to have a little bit of entertainment when one goes to the movies. Apart from the last two minutes, which provide a little emotional resolution, this is a rather unsettling film.

Perhaps it should be, because of its subject.

If your idea of fun is to watch the run-ups to several product launches, then this is the film for you. If you are suffering withdrawal symptoms, after the end of West Wing, and hanker after people walking through corridors talking quickly (Aaron Sorkin, who created West Wing, wrote the screenplay for Steve Jobs), then this is for you. If you want your visits to the cinema to be like going to see the dentist, then this is for you.

I am happy to accept that this film may well accurately depict its subject and display his human relationships in garish detail.

I’m left with one conclusion. We don’t have much time on this planet. Above all, we should try to be nice to people we come across.

It’s not much to ask.

November 12, 2015
by Paul

There’s more than one reason why defence chiefs shouldn’t criticise politicians

General Sir Nicholas Houghton’s appearance on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday has caused controversy, particularly for these remarks:

…Of course we now have the leader of the opposition who says quite openly he would never press the nuclear button. Does that worry you?
Well it … it would worry me if that, er, thought was translated into power as it were because …
So if he wins, he’s a problem?
Well there’s a couple of hurdles to cross before we get to that.
Of course.
But the reason I say this – and it’s not based on a personal thing at all, it’s purely based on the credibility of deterrence. The whole thing about deterrence rests on the credibility of its use. When people say you’re never going to use the deterrent, what I say is you use the deterrent you know every second of every minute of every day and the purpose of the deterrent is that you don’t have to use it because you successfully deter.

I find it very worry that the serving Chief of the Defence Staff of the British Armed Forces is saying publicly that (paraphrasing slightly) he “would worry” if the leader of the opposition gets into power as Prime Minister. In fact I find that absolutely staggering. It is redolent of military coups. This officer has no place whatsoever casting general doubts on the capability of the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition to hold prime ministerial office.

But there is another reason why defence chiefs should not open their mouths on TV in such a way.

They sound like total idiots, and do not have the ability or the position to follow up their statements with sustained argument. Because they are not politicians.

In other words, Sir Nicolas will be safely back at his desk counting warheads when the rest of us are asking “Who the heck are you trying to deter? – Brezhnev died 33 years ago and the Soviet Union died 24 years ago.”

November 11, 2015
by Paul

The Last Post

As we approach the end of Armistice Day, it is, perhaps, appropriate to remember the tune most associated with military memorials, The Last Post.

The BBC produce some superb radio documentaries. They have surpassed themselves with “The Last Post” presented by Alwyn W Turner. It tells the story of the tune and describes its extraordinarily wide use, often at national and international occasions and including at the funerals of Sir Winston Churchill and IRA man Bobby Sands. He also mentions the American equivalent, “Taps”, which was played at the funeral of John F Kennedy. Continue Reading →

November 11, 2015
by Paul

David Cameron is hoist with his own petard

Hat-tip to Peter Black for inspiring the title

Here below is some fascinating reading. First, a letter which David Cameron sent to the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council (bearing in mind the PM’s constituency of Witney is in Oxfordshire) and then the reply he got.

Via, it seems, a somewhat incautious researcher or adviser, Mr Cameron reveals an extraordinary ignorance of local government finance, coupled with remarkable arrogance. Continue Reading →

November 7, 2015
by Paul

Gallipoli – bloody, pivotal point in history

The photo montage above shows Suvla Bay during the campaigning in the First World War, alongside the present-day scene there

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts this year are particularly focussed on the Gallipoli campaign. We’re at the one hundredth anniversary of that invasion attempt, which took place from April 25th 1915 to January 9th 1916.

Comedian Hugh Dennis has produced an excellent BBC programme called “In search of Great Uncle Frank” which explains the campaign very well, through a visit to Suvla Bay (in present-day Turkey) scene of much of the carnage, to retrace the steps of his Great Uncle Frank, who died during the action.

Tens of thousands of young people died in the battles. They came from the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, India and France.

As well as providing an excellent narrative of the events, Hugh Dennis provides, in the programme (which can still be listened to on BBC iPlayer here) an interesting historical perspective.

I was particularly touched by the interview with an old Turkish woman. She said she was not angry about the invasion and that the Turkish regard all the soldiers who died in the campaign, from whatever nation they came, as “Sons of Turkey”. They became our sons when they died here, she said. This was an attitude, she said, encouraged by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

It seems to me that such a forgiving, human approach to remembrance is much needed.

I declare an interest in that my grandfather, C.H.Walter of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, was fortunate enough to survive the Suvla Bay landing with his horse, Susie. Sadly, many of his comrades-in-arms did not.

My eldest brother, James, recently visited Suvla Bay, and has taken a great interest in the events there of 1915-1916.

Once again I remember, with gratitude, this year that I’ve been fortunate enough not to be “called up” and have enjoyed the freedom to express myself on things like this blog, unlike millions who have had their lives cut short by the horror of war.

The photo below of Suvla Bay from Battleship Hill is by Gsl~commonswikiSuvla_from_Battleship_Hill by Gsl~commonswiki

November 7, 2015
by Paul

The modern version of “There’s a hole in my bucket”

You know the song – Henry and Liza have a circular conversation such as this:

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Oh mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it.

With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?

Try straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with straw.

It goes round in circles. Henry needs to get a sharpener to cut straw to mend the hole in the bucket. But the sharpener needs to be wetted. Liza suggests wetting it. But Henry says he hasn’t got any water. So she says fetch some and then he says he can’t fetch some because there’s a hole in his bucket….. It’s all good fun.

The modern version goes something like this (except I can’t currently get it to go round in a circle):

LIZA: Did you get my text message?
HENRY: No dear.
L: Why not?
H: Because I turned off my phone to conserve energy. Remember you asked me to get the on/off switch fixed so I could switch it off and conserve battery?
L: But you mustn’t switch it off – you won’t get urgent text messages from me.
H: But how do I conserve energy?
L: Go onto the “save energy” option.
H: Where’s that?
L: In settings under energy options.
H: I don’t see it.
L: Ah. You must have an old version. Have you updated your iOS recently?
H: No. I am a version behind.
L: Why?
H: Because I can’t update it because I don’t have space.
L: Why is that?
H: Because I can’t get rid of my photos onto my PC to create space.
L: Why not?
H: Because I have tried three times and spent hours trying to transfer the photos but I can’t do it.
L: Why not?
H: OK I’ll try again.
H: I found a hidden file problem. I have now done it. So I now have the photos on my laptop. I now have free space. H: I can now do the update so that I can change to low energy so that I can always be on to receive text messages.
H: What was the message anyway?
L: I was stuck in traffic.
H: Oh right. But you’re here now talking to me aren’t you?
L: Yes.
H: Ah well, all’s well that ends well.

November 1, 2015
by Paul

Theresa May does a Paul Daniels on internet surveillance – but the devil is in the detail

Theresa May has pulled off quite a trick in the last couple of weeks. She built up the impression that the government would store the entire nation’s internet browsing history (which must have had computer storage salespeople salivating heavily) and ban encryption (effectively banning WhatsApp and Snapchat).

But now she’s spun the upturned eggcups around the table and revealed that she won’t be doing that after all, so isn’t she soooo reasonable? Continue Reading →

November 1, 2015
by Paul

Glimpsing those icy wastes at the top of the globe

Trans-Siberian railway by Pixabay Free for commercial use no attribution requiredI’m a bit addicted to travelogue programmes. I could very happily watch “Coast” 24×7. “Great Railway Journeys” has me hooked.

And, recently, there has been a splurge of excellent travelgouey shows, particularly looking at the northern parts of our blessed globe.

Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands is brilliant. Paul Murton visits a string of the Scottish islands. I’ve just watched the one where he visited Skye and the inspiration for “Skyfall” – Ian Fleming’s father’s house, Arnisdale House at Loch Hourn.

Alexander Armstrong in the Land of the Midnight Sun is a wonderful series, albeit rather brief (one programme on the whole Canada?). I particularly enjoyed his visit to the Sirius patrol – one of six pairs of Danish soldiers who patrol north-eastern Greenland on sledges for two years solid. Quite extraordinary. I was also taken by his flying visit to Little Diomede, a tiny settlement of Inupiat people which is just 2.4 miles from Russia, facing it across the Bering Strait.

Chris Tarrant does a fantastic job on Extreme Railway Journeys. He’s been all over the world but the most extreme journey must surely be his One-Way Ticket to Siberia. Siberia is as big as Europe, Canada and the USA put together. And most of it is ice, snow and the odd tree. Chris Tarrant went up to the northernmost railway station in the world, at Karskaya on the gas-rich Yamal peninsula.

Call me a nerd if you like, but I love all this stuff.

October 23, 2015
by Paul

Back to Highway 61

I have aways been a bit averse to Bob Dylan.

I have recognised him as being one of the best songwriters ever, but not the best singer of his own songs.

This situation changed yesterday.

I listened to Andy Kershaw’s sublime documentary “Back to Highway 61” about the making of Highway 61 Revisited. It is utterly fascinating. I then listened to the whole of Highway 61 Revisited on Spotify and, guess what? I actually enjoyed it. A lot. Indeed, so wowed by it was I that I am thinking of getting a T-Shirt with “Desolation Row” on it.

They do exist!

October 23, 2015
by Paul

Tim’s new chief of staff and a hangover after a late spring evening drinking with friends

It’s not what you think.

Tim Farron recently introduced his new Chief of Staff, Ben Williams, on these pages:

Ben was the standout candidate and brings a wealth of experience at all levels of the party from council campaigner to Head of Liberal Democrat Whips’ Office and latterly a Special Adviser. Everyone who has worked with him knows his skills and how brilliantly he works under pressure. There were many points over our years in government when I saw Ben, at first hand, make sure the government kept delivering liberal policies under tremendous pressures. He is exactly what our party needs – someone who can help me to help our party grow and thrive.

Ben Williams also has, according to self-publishing website, “always harboured a secret passion for writing.” Continue Reading →