March 6, 2014
by Paul
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Caution all Scots coming to the York Lib Dem conference

imageIt’s legal to kill a Scotsman with a bow and arrow in York, except on Sundays. It must be true, it’s on the Daily Record website. They’re Scots. So just be careful this weekend.

And this law predates Alex Salmond, by the way.

PS. Some websites say you can only kill a Scotsman in York if he is carrying a bow and arrow, which makes a bit more sense.

Photo of York: License Some rights reserved by ospalh

March 5, 2014
by Paul
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Tim Farron in conversation with Judith Bunting tonight @judithbuntingld @timfarron

image
This was at the wonderful Hampstead Norreys Village hall. An excellent evening. Superb food provided by Judy Cooper and co. And Tim was on excellent form, flowing naturally with fascinating viewpoints on a range of subjects.

Quote of the evening:

Both Labour and the Tories want to throw £100 billion down a Trident-shaped toilet.

March 3, 2014
by Paul
2 Comments

Putin is the one on the back foot, not the West

Vladimir Putin Red Square - That's My Boy!! Хорошо, молодец!!!Over the last few days, I’ve seen many reports to the effect that Putin is “calling the tune” in Ukraine and that he has the West on the “back foot”, and that he is “ahead of the game”.

I look at it from a long-term perspective and I see that it is Putin who is on the “back foot”.

Just look at the list of countries which, 13 years ago, were members of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact, but are now members of NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world, whose 28 countries “agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”:

Bulgaria
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Poland
Romania
Slovakia

And just look at the ex-Warsaw Pact members who are members or applying members of the EU:

Bulgaria
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Poland
Romania
Slovakia

Then look at the vast land mass of Ukraine. And the fact that overtures have been made for it to join NATO and the EU.

It’s not the West that’s on the back foot here, it is Putin, desperate to save some foothold and the Black Sea port base of Sevastopol. He’s like a cornered rat. He’s on the wrong side of history. He’s behaving like an unspeakable bully, cynically invading Ukraine in the gap between the Winter Olympics and the Winter Paralympics (when any hostilities, and chance for Ukraine to respond militarily, will be kiboshed by the Olympic truce). But it’s not going to work in the long run.

My outrage at this bullying (the latest example of which is the disgraceful ultimatum given to Ukraine forces in Crimea) is tempered by reasonable confidence that Putin is behaving in the most incredibly short-sighted way. He will do the reputation of Russia much more damage than it is worth to hold on to the peninsula of Crimea.

However, I fear that, sooner or later, someone is going to have to stand up to this bully.

I’m reminded of the words of Theodore Roosevelt, quoting an old African proverb:

Speak softly and carry a big stick. You will go far.

March 2, 2014
by Paul
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The ska classic behind the “Death in Paradise” theme tune

As a family, we’re great fans of BBC 1′s “Death in Paradise”. We particularly like the theme tune. A little research showed that the tune is an instrumental version of a classic reggae song. “You’re wondering now” is the song. It was written by Reuben “Andy” Anderson.

The original version appears to be by Andy and Joey in 1964. The YouTube clip below shows a 1966 recording of some joyous dancing to the song.

Some websites say the original version was by the Skatalites, but on their official discography I can only find later versions on compilation albums. Their version is below also, together with the Series 3 opening titles from “Death in Paradise”.

The song has also been covered by The Specials and Amy Winehouse.

March 2, 2014
by Paul
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Welcome to Twitter to the police helicopter service covering Newbury @NPAS_Benson

Day 28 - West Midlands Police Helicopter - Air Ops - Alpha Oscar OneA very warm welcome to Twitter to the police helicopter service which covers Newbury, based at Benson.

@NPAS_Benson (NPAS stands for National Police Air Service), started tweeting about their flights last Tuesday, 25th February. Their tweets are providing an extremely enlightening stream of information.

For example, last night, the helicopter was over Shaw, Newbury:

March 1, 2014
by Paul
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Newbury’s Crimean connection

Yesterday, I was reading the information panels at Newbury’s Clock House, as you do. Northbrook Street in Newbury used to be presided over by a large cannon. It stood on the site of the Clock House and pointed down Northbrook Street. Apparently, it was brought back as spoils from the Crimean War.

Here is the relevant illustration on the information panel. It shows what was on the Clock House site in 1910. The drawing is by Len Webb.

canon clock

March 1, 2014
by Paul
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GCHQ/NSA and onanification surveillance?

cleave tm crpAn interesting development. I like Marina Hyde’s take on it:

But it’s one thing for a bunch of people to go public about the personal details whipped off their voicemails, and quite another to reveal that footage of oneself masturbating into chopped liver or apple pie or whatever may have found its way into Allied hands. While I enormously admire the rare victim who would waive their right to onanistic anonymity for the greater good, you sense that, for all the clear moral rectitude of the cause, the majority of potential Optic Nerve targets may want to sit this one out and wait for a privacy crusade their grandma could be proud of.

February 22, 2014
by Paul
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Lifetimes of dedication to Liberalism

It was great to see Newbury Liberal/Liberal Democrats Chris Hall and Mike James receive lifetime achievement awards today at the Liberal Democrat South Central conference at Arlington Arts Centre near Newbury. My photo below shows them receiving the awards from Lorely Burt MP, who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Danny Alexander at the Treasury. Also shown is Judith Bunting, Newbury PPC, who made a fine speech of trubute to Mike and Chris.

Mike and Chris are good friends of mine. Let’s just say one of them was a Newbury Borough Councillor before I was born. They have both been very long serving Liberals and are both great guys.

image

February 16, 2014
by Paul
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Searches for missing people is biggest reason for police helicopter hovers over Newbury

Day 28 - West Midlands Police Helicopter - Air Ops - Alpha Oscar OneI have now sorted the data provided to me by West Yorkshire Police under the Freedom of Information Act. See below.

This lists the reasons for each police helicopter hover over Newbury from 1st December 2012 to 30th November 2013.

There were 60 hovers in all. The most common reason for hovers was to search for missing people/concern for welfare search (bolded below). In all there were 20 hovers for this reason – about a third of the hovers.

I find this very interesting – and, indeed, reassuring.

Here’s the aggregated list, with the caveat that the police changed their classification system half way through the year, so there is a bit of overlap in the classifications:

11 Search- missing person
6 Suspicious circumstances incident
6 Fear for welfare search
5 Firearms incident
4 Search – Vehicle
4 Photo/Video
3 Search-suspect
3 Search CFW/injured person
3 Other
3 Burglary non-dwelling
3 Burglary dwelling
2 Search – other
2 Decamp
1 Theft
1 Pursuit vehicle
1 Ops support other
1 Observer training
1 Foot pursuit

February 15, 2014
by Paul
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Reasons for police helicopter hovering over Newbury 2012-2013

Day 28 - West Midlands Police Helicopter - Air Ops - Alpha Oscar OneMuch excitement. The National Police Air Service based at Benson, Oxfordshire, will be starting their tweeting on their Twitter account on February 25th. From that date, we should know the reason for each police helicopter hover over Newbury. This is very much to be welcomed. No longer will we have the sinister noise of the helicopter rattling overhead, with us thinking “What on earth is it doing?”.

By coincidence I have recently received a list of the reasons for police helicopter hovers over Newbury between November 2012 and November 2013. This was the result of a Freedom of Information request I lodged in December 2013, which was eventually fulfilled by West Yorkshire Police. Yes, it is bizarre. They look after the National Police Service and a month was wasted asking my own local force, only to be told to refer to ‘uddersfield!

Here, via the miracle that is Scribd, is the reply I got from West Yorkshire Police. It is fascinating stuff. (The data is also available on the West Yorkshire Police website here).

Update: I have done a little analysis on the figures in a later post here.

Freedom of information request – reply re: helicopters over Newbury Berkshire UK 2012-2013 Walter 127-236…

February 15, 2014
by Paul
0 comments

Prime Minister’s Questions: Can people not use their loaf?

cropped-Houses-of-Parliament_tonemapped2.jpgLiberal Democrat Voice have initiated a debate on PMQs, based on a recent Hansard society report.

About four-fifths, or about 25 minutes, of PMQs consists of very earnest questions and equally earnest answers with no ribald antics. Question: “Will the Prime Minister agree to look at the appalling situation concerning the plight of Mrs Muggins/the threatened closure The Royal Free Muggins Hospital/the disastrous flooding in Mugginshire in my constituency?” – Answer: “The Right Honourable member is absolutely right to highlight this situation. I share her/his concern and I will look into it and get back to her/him in due course.” – is a very typical exchange.

The other 5 minutes consists of a few disingenuously planted questions and the slanging match between Her Majesty’s First Lord of the Treasury and leader of the loyal opposition. I agree with most of the proposed changes listed on LDV, particularly the one which makes the whole thing done in peak time so more people are appropriately bored to tears by the Mugginshire questions. – So they know it’s only five minutes of Punch and Judy. But is that really the way forward? Will we end up with people being bored by politics rather than appalled? The media has some responsibility here and I can’t help but think it would help to educate people generally more in the real business of parliament. But I doubt they are interested.

Therein lies the conundrum. The media, abetted by the pols, sex up three minutes of mindlessness out of endless hours of earnest boredom, to catch people’s attention. But it then “turns them off” politics. Hopefully a middle way between ennui and outrage can be found. Is it too much to ask that people in general use their brains a bit more, listen to some of the other debates, or at least to the rest of PMQs apart from the three shouty minutes, rather than making stupid assumptions based on a very small snapshot?

In a democracy, citizens actually do have a broad duty to use their brains, rather than just sitting there and taking what is rammed down their throats by the media.

“Controversial!” – as Ben Elton used to say.

February 15, 2014
by Paul
0 comments

SNP’s pound debacle indicates profound problem with independence campaign

9841631403_b0ebea1646_bI must admit I was scratching my head when it was announced by the SNP that they are proposing to keep the pound if Scotland votes yes to independence.

So, an independent Scotland has its money governed by the Governor of the Bank of England. Note: “England”. And that governor is appointed by the Westminster government.

It is just bonkers. Really bonkers.

But never mind. Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are very confident of their superior intelligence. All of us who were surprised by this were being stupid. It really was logical, they said. Indeed, it was the right of Scotland to have the pound.

Nicola Sturgeon (in one of those interviews where she sort of snorty/laughs down her nose at the interviewer as she responds to questions she feels are stupid and beneath her superior intelligence) actually said that the Bank of England is independent, so it would make sense for Scotland’s money to be run by it.

Was she being disingenuous? Did she expect that people would be so stupid as to believe that the Bank of England is “independent” in a scenario involving two sovereign states?

Yes, it is “independent” in that it sets interest rates independent of the British government. But it is not independent in deciding issues between two sovereign states, quite simply because the Bank of England is wholly owned by the UK Government’s Treasury Solicitor and with its Governor appointed on the recommendation of the UK Prime Minister.

And now the whole thing has unravelled and even the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury says it is a bonkers idea.

But this mess indicates a profound problem with the independence campaign. It’s one party and, basically, two politicians who are advocating independence. That is no way to found a nation state. (Indeed Sottish devolution came about as a result of a broad consensus across Scottish society in the Scottish convention.)

And no amount of condescending, smart alec claptrap by the two fishy fishes (Salmond and Sturgeon) will change that.