Independent Political Coverage

Friday, June 16, 2006

WIPO Puts Podcasting Back In Firing Line

From BoingBoing: WIPO meets to screw up podcasting, Barcelona, June 21

The United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization has called a last-minute meeting on June 21 in Barcelona, out of the normal diplomatic venues to try to ram through the Broadcasting Treaty. This treaty gives broadcasters (not creators or copyright holders) the right to tie up the use of audiovisual material for 50 years after broadcasting it, even if the programs are in the public domain, Creative Commons licensed, or not copyrightable.

The Barcelona meeting brings together lots of latinamerican broadcasters -- who no doubt love the idea of a new monopoly right that they get for free merely for broadcasting a work. Bringing these casters in is a way of undermining the effective opposition to the treaty that's come from countries like Brazil and Chile.... This meeting is especially deadly, because it looks like they're trying to sneak podcasting back into the treaty, after agreeing to take it out at the last big meeting in Geneva.

The good news is, it's open to the public. If you're a digital rights activist in Barcelona -- or just someone who cares about how big corporations are taking away your rights to use works freely -- then you need to be at this meeting.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

UK Podcasters Meet BBC

Conrad Slater (left) and "Podcast" Paul (right) observing BBC Television Centre in April sunlight
A group of UK podcasters spent two hours in deep in the bowels of BBC Television Centre yesterday discussing UK podcasting. Chris Vallance of Radio Five Live's Pods and Blogs invited British podcasters to discuss podcasting, broadcasting and where the two might meet up.

We were joined by Rhod Sharp, host of "Up All Night", BBC radio producer Dominic Laurie, and Rebecca Myatt from World Service Outlook who expressed her interest in finding podcasts for their audience of 140 million.

Present at this historic event were a mixture of podcast producers from businesses deriving income to passionate enthusiasts, all reporting rapidly quickening growth in the podcast phenomenon, which was attributed partly to the BBC's recent promotion of podcasting. There are well over 250 active UK podcasters right now and it was acknowledged that it is beginning to emerge as a source of talent with new ideas and voices emerging.

Inital talk was about the freedom and independence enjoyed by the podcasters as opposed to the relatively tight restrictions which apply to BBC podcasters. Rhod Sharp described podcasting as being "six feet under the totem pole" as far as the BBC were concerned. Paul Pinfield made the point that the BBC set globally acknowledged standards. Chris Vallance played some podcasts from Germany and Pakistan, making the point that these were genuine voices, untouched by editorial considerations or censorship, and speaking in a natural way that non-broadcasters use.

There was discussion about how the BBC is set up to respond to and deal with citizen-submitted media from mobile phones, etc, with the example given of images coming in from July 7th London bombings. The BBC podcast "experiment" was debated, and issue of MCPS-PRS podcast license was raised, the BBC not yet aware that such a license exists. Rhod Sharp commended the Creative Commons concept as a flexible and easy to understand licensing system for UK citizens which could be easily adopted.

What made podcasting different was it's genuineness and intimacy, said Janet Parkinson from Flashing 12, a self-confessed hobbyist. Responding to emails and having interaction with your audience was crucial, she said. UK podcasting output is distinctive, has good production values, and does well internationally, observed Neil Dixon. The Britcaster forum which he runs was was intelligent and remarkably "troll free"; he acknowledged that he had to deal with spurious entries to his British listing from people who wanted to be in the "British only" listing and noted one new addition per day. Paul Pinfield who spoke of his interest in the business side of podcasting and offered his view that podcasting would soon replace local radio, which was "total crap". There was strong group of music podcasters present.

Dean Whitbread talked about the empowerment of podcasting, where the writer producer and editor has the advantage of being able to vary formats and combine media in original ways, adding different kinds of material to the same RRS feed. I asked whether an independent podcast used by the BBC would automatically be covered by existing BBC agreements regarding music licensing - the consensus was yes, it would be. Mark Crook pointed out that as podcasting was now on school curriculums, we could expect to see more young people becoming podcasters as they learn to use the tools.

As the discussion ended, the quietly smiling 23 year old Phil "Bitjobs" from Birmingham was spirited away into the bowels of BBC by a crew "looking for somewhere domestic" to shoot a TV interview.

After the meeting we were joined by filmmaker Conrad Slater, and Adrian Pegg, as the debate re-convened in local Shepherds Bush pub the Defector's Weld for a Britcasters get-together. The jolly-up centred around the benign figure of Neil Dixon who set up the Britcaster forum one year ago.

In this recording, Chris Vallance interviews the assembled podcasters, as with multiple recording devices, they record him interviewing them. At one point Podcast Paul's microphone is clipped to a pint of beer, and my Sony Minidisc recorder is balanced on a sauce bottle.

There is widespread praise for Roger Smalls, Neil Dixon describes himself as the Daddy and confesses to many moods, Podcast Paul admits that UK Podcasters are Radio Caroline, Paul Pinfield talks business and praises Vobes, Deek Deekster gives bandwidth and expresses his pleasure in finding folk music in urban Isington, Janet describes her fascination for podcasts from other countries for learning about other cultures, as global podcast culture emerges - her magazine Podcast User has been going three months and is now being downloaded in 80 countries. In the longer version, Conrad Slater talks about and demonstrates the creative use of a small stereo condenser microphone.

Edited interview - 14:49

Unedited interview - 19:24

© Deek Deekster 2006. Podcast Nation: "Nation Shall Cast Pod Unto Nation.".

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Podsafe Or Not Podsafe?

The following extract from the Britcaster Forum debate on proposed MCPS-PRS Podcast Licencing.

I have mixed feelings even about the whole "podsafe" concept - some of the best music i have ever heard in dance music especially, is completely 100% ILLEGAL - and superb all the same. I think it's necessary to maintain our magpie culture at grassroots level - as TS Eliot said, a mature artist steals - for it to be vital.

Once podcasting starts to seriously commercialise, gets easier, and hordes of talented newbies really start to appear, it will be a different thing altogether. people = money = which changes everything.

In the UK, Pre-Nominet, it used to be that in order to get a domain name, you simply went to the naming committee and asked for it. can you imagine anyone NOT charging for domain registrations now?

Legislators and "authorities" everywhere have this kind of scenario in mind with the explosion of podcasting and the whole citizen-driven media thing. there are so many people doing it, and vested interests everywhere really want in. look how much Murdoch paid for MySpace.

In the end, the one thing that can damage podcasting as it emerges is bad legislation. There is a lot of educating to do of those who would legislate - explaining for e.g. podcasting is not file-sharing, not radio, nor publishing, nor broadcast - and that so long as it does no harm, it has the right to be treated as a new and different thing, and to evolve in relative freedom develop its own unique formats.

That for me is worth doing and would be the primary reason for going back to MCPS-PRS, en masse, and saying to them, here's how we'd like to be, this is what we think is fair for the UK, this is what we think is equitable.

If we do it promptly, loud and clear, we might even be listened to. Which won't affect my rebellious and defiantly pioneering friends one iota, but which may make a lot of difference to the thousands of nice people who are all just about to show up and go podcast.

I guess we need to see what consensus there really is among UK podcasters on these issues. There is a poll here about the MCPS-PRS licensing scheme for UK Podcasters.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

G8 Fails To Save Planet

"At the heart of the communiqué is a disappointing failure by the leaders of the G8 unequivocally to recognise the urgency with which we must be addressing the global threat of climate change," he said.

"Make no mistake, the science already justifies reversing - not merely slowing - the global growth of greenhouse gas emissions. Further delays will make the G8's avowed commitment in this communiqué to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change extremely difficult."

"In its communiqué the G8 talks of 'facing a moment of opportunity' while, at the same time, turning away from that moment." - Lord May of Oxford, President of the UK's academy of science, the Royal Society - BBC

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Paralysed By Bombs

All around me, explosions are rocking London, at least 6 since 8.45am, the nearest of which at Kings Cross happened a little over a mile from here. I can hear helicopters overhead and sirens from ambulances and police cars. The top deck of a bus was blown off in Tavistock Square. There are at least 2 dead, people have lost limbs, probably more than 100 injured. The capital's transport system, buses, underground, trains, has been totally stopped.

The London police chief Sir Ian Blair (not everyone in charge here is called Blair) just asked everyone here to stay where they are and not to call the emergency services unless life is threatened. Breaking news via the BBC is that Al Qaeda are claiming responsibility, 200 words on a European website laying claim to this death and destruction.

The atmosphere is so far calm, Londoners responding with customary stoicism. There is plenty of time to panic. It has not really sunk in yet. The phone networks are saturated. Images are just arriving from wrecked underground trains captured on mobile phones. People are still trapped at Kings Cross station, apparently.

What a twist in this nation's history - one moment proud and happy hosts of the G8, celebrating for having won the Olympic bid, our leaders on a moral mission to make poverty history and save the planet, the next thing, solemn and tragic.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8 Claims Moral High Ground

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Chenigall Suseela, 14, Wins Divorce To Study

In a landmark victory for women's rights, Chenigall Suseela, a 14-year-old girl in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has won a battle to have her two-year marriage to a teenage boy annulled.

"It is thought the first time in the state's history a child bride has successfully fought the centuries-old tradition of marrying girls off young.Village elders agreed to grant Chenigall Suseela, who had threatened to commit suicide, the annulment. Suseela said that she wanted to go back to school. Her parents admitted they should not have married her off without her consent." - BBC News.

Also at BNN.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Five Podcast 9

Ten minute documentary coverage of the Legalise Cannabis March and Rally, London, 15 May 2005. (24MB).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Europe Leads Way In Third World Poverty Relief

The UN wants world poverty halved by 2015, and claiming a breakthrough in the fight against world poverty, today European nations agreed to increase to double its development aid to poorer nations. In five years time, the EU's aid to poor countries will be worth an extra £14 billion ($26 billion) annually. UK Chancellor Gordon Brown said "huge progress" had been made.

The 15 richest EU member states have agreed to set a new spending target - at least 0.51% of their national wealth - on the developing world by 2010. The other 10 poorer, mostly eastern European member states - who joined the EU last year - agreed a 0.17% target.

The goals, which were approved by UK International Development Secretary Hilary Benn and fellow EU ministers, are an attempt to revive momentum towards achieving a United Nations target to halve world poverty by 2015. The UN target would involve 0.7% of national wealth being spent on development by that date. The target, which was set 35 years ago, has only been achieved by four EU countries - Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Five others - the UK, France, Belgium, Finland and Spain - have set firm dates to meet it.

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown hailed the aid increase, but said it was now important to bring together all the world's richest nations to sign up to a single plan. He hoped the plan could be agreed when Britain chaired the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July. He said he was sure America would support efforts to increase the amount of aid going to the developing world. Mr Brown said: "What we have seen is all 25 European Union countries - the poorest and the richest - coming together to promise that aid, which was $40bn last year will be $80bn by 2010.

"So Europe is saying it will double aid. It is putting that money to health and education and particularly into Africa." - BBC

Ditto BNN

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Mass Extinctions Threaten Future Of Humanity

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), the most comprehensive audit of the health of our planet to date, has published a warning that "if we continue with current rates of species extinction, we will have no chance of rolling back poverty and the lives of all humans will be diminished." The MA has been drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations over four years.

"Changes in biodiversity were more rapid in the last 50 years than at any time in human history," said Dr Georgina Mace, the director of science at the Institute of Zoology, in London, UK, and an MA synthesis team member.

"And when you look to the future, to various projections and scenarios, we expect those changes to continue and in some circumstances to accelerate.

"Future models are very uncertain but all of them tell us that as we move into the next 100 years, we'll be seeing extinction rates that are a thousand to 10,000 times those in the fossil record."

A third of all amphibians, a fifth of mammals and an eighth of all birds are now threatened with extinction. - BBC, MA

Ditto BNN

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mobile Phone Tumour Risk Three Times As Likely In Rural Areas

" residents using digital mobiles were three times as likely to develop a tumour compared to urban users, who had about the same risk of brain tumours as the general population.

For malignant brain tumours, the risk was eight times as high for those living in a rural area, but the numbers were very small, the researchers warned.

Lead researcher Professor Lennart Hardell said the cause of the increased risk seemed to be the higher emissions from the phones in rural areas because the base stations were further apart than they would be in cities and towns." - BBC News reports this Swedish Research.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Five Podcast 8

Deek Deekster discusses nuts, politicians, politics and podcasting with International Bicycle Thief and rounds up coverage of UK election 2005 from Funk.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A Tremendous Honour And Privilege

It has been a tremendous honour and privilege to take part in the period drama of national transition.

I am watching today's TV with tea and ice cream, laughing at Peter Snow and the mad BBC Graphics.

Chastised Blair, biting his lip, promising to do better - "I.. We.. I, the Government" he said on the steps of Number 10, and "We've got to listen to the people" in that earnest voice of his. And that about summed it up for me. King Blair let off with a spanking. Pull your socks up, bring the troops home, stop the US bombing Iran, and make sure Palestine gets the West Bank back in full, you bad man.

Then the surprise of Michael Howard's magisterial statement of stepping down, having turned around his party's fortunes, determining to make sure the Conservative leadership selection process was reformed before he did so.

The LibDem massive has been bigged up, Charles Kennedy's frowning red face and confident stomp making him look just like a ginger partridge. He looks so lary! He's promising to make 3 party politics a reality. Actually that's a big change on the political map, and they won't be able to force ID cards on us so easily. A return to more truly parliamentary government is surely a good thing.

It took all the Labour big guns to win this, from Gordon Brown, instantly brought in from the cold to be a massive electoral asset, to prominent anti-war politicians like Robin Cook and Tony Benn. Will there be enough cohesion in the Labour party to survive Blair's passing?

This ritual loss of a night's sleep and obsession with minutae is something 24 hour news media has bred in some of the population but by no means all.

Earlier I overheard the following conversation: "Who won?" "Same lot." "You vote?" "Na." "Me neither."

I think I might have another cup of tea.

Deek Deekster Retires From Politics

Deek Deekster has announced his retirement from politics, in order to spend more time unwinding.

Labour Hold Islington South

Emily Thornberry Labour 12,345 39.9 -14.0
Bridget Fox Liberal Democrat 11,861 38.3 +10.2
Melanie McLean Conservative 4,594 14.8 +1.1
James Humphries Green 1,471 4.8 +4.8
Patricia Theophanides UK Independence Party 470 1.5 +1.5
Andy the Hat Gardener Monster Raving Loony Party 189 0.6 +0.6
Chris Gidden Independent 31 0.1 +0.1
Majority 484 1.6
Turnout 30,961 53.6 +6.2

Islington South Recount On Cards

I have just returned from the count at the Sobell Centre, Islington, where I have seen Bridget Fox (LibDem) and Emily Thornberry (Labour) polling neck and neck. There is already talk of a recount.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Politically Correct And Incorrect Election Birds

Islington South and Finsbury - two polling stations off Upper Street, 3pm, 5/5/5.

Warm Spring Day Sees London Voter Turnout Up

Voter turnout in the densely populated urban consituency of Islington South and Finsbury, is so far up on the last general election in 2001, said Labour and LibDem workers outside the local school turned Polling station in Laycock Street, near Highbury Corner, London, this afternoon.

Both estimated a rise of between 2% and 3%, which suggests that the many predictions of low turnout could be wide of the mark. It has yet to be seen if this is localised. Weather conditions are favouring the south, north London experiencing pleasant sunny spells and occasional showers, while the north is experiencing damper conditions.

Ditto BNN


"I'm also proud of the way we do things here. We're a small country, physically, but the system is elegant - it took minutes to present my polling card, collect the ballot paper and vote - fortunately we've no local elections here this time around for some reason though there are else where (I suspect this is something to do with being a Unitary Authority) - it's a strange and somewhat naive way of doing it. But the fact that by 3(ish) tomorrow morning we will have an *actual* rather than predicted vote is something I think we ought to be proud of too.

If you are a British Citizen living in the UK then get out and vote or shame on you! Regardless of who wins." - Dave O'Neill, Atomic Razor

Vote Blair, Get Blair

"There are a great many similarities between Labour today and the Conservatives at the beginning of the 1990's. If Blair continues to push his agenda, the backlash that will eventually come about may make Labour's 18 years in the wilderness look like the blink of an eye." - balders, The UK Today

Just Voted (Not) Labour

"Tony Blair and his servile fawning MPs in the commons ( Roche et al ) have only themselves to blame. Iraq, tuition fees, Civil liberties, PFI, David Blunkett, war on terror, the clampdown on immigrants and refugees is the reason i will not be voting labour.

I wonder how many people across the UK are saying the same thing." - karenexile, trousered elephant

Tony Benn To The Rescue

"The 80-year-old former cabinet minister yesterday swallowed huge doubts about the Iraq war to spend three hours talking to a list of wavering voters provided by Labour campaign headquarters.

Mr Benn, ostracised as a socialist eccentric by Mr Blair for nearly 10 years, was rung by sheepish Labour officials at his London home. He said the call was a sign that Labour was in recovery. "To have them ring me to help them out, well it shows this election means Labour is returning to what it was."

He admitted that his calls to a list of potential switchers had been hard going. "I am president of the anti-war coalition so there is no point saying Iraq has been anything but a disaster. I have been campaigning for 63 years and I will always support Labour. It is a trade union party and socialist party. It has done good things." - Guardian.

Election Jitters

"Am I worried about the outcome of the UK General Election? Hell yeah! The pundits and the Press Corps have no idea what is going on in the marginals. The predictions are of a Labour victory with anything between a 10 and 100-seat majority. But if predictions are that precise then surely other outcomes, such as a hung Parliament or worse, cannot be ruled out.... I wonder how much of the PM's fretful performance will have put off undecided voters. Clearly the strategy was to alarm the Labour stay-at-homes into turning out and voting after all. Blair has shown plenty of political nous in the past though; perhaps I should suspend judgement and wait to see if his tactics this time have pulled the iron out of the fire again." - Mike Brunavs, Yateley, Hants - Left Thinking

It's That Voting Time Again

Decision time is upon the British nation, and with as much as one third of voters undecided in key marginals there is still no definite indication of Labour's inevitable victory. The last NOP Poll puts Labour on 36% and the Conservatives on 33% which is within the margin of error to produce an upset Conservative win.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Official Monster Raving Loony Party Leads The Way On Votes At 16

There was widespread call today for votes at 16. The only UK party to have this policy in their manifesto is the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, and as Andy "The Hat" Gardener explains here, all their best policies get pinched. Abolition of the dog license, passports for pets...

"The UK's 1.5m 16 and 17-year-olds would become further alienated from the democratic process if they continued to be excluded from voting, claimed the Votes at 16 coalition. The group said that if people at 16 were able to leave home, get a full-time job, pay taxes, raise children and join the armed forces they should also be able to vote. 'They have considerable responsibilities...but adult society does not consider them responsible enough to vote' Louise King, Children's Rights Alliance
Lowering the voting age could also help to reinvigorate the youth vote by forcing MPs to take an active interest in the issues that concern young people, they said.

The group - which also includes the Children's Rights Alliance for England, British Youth Council and Children's Parliament in Scotland - have written to the party leaders, asking them to promise to extend the franchise.

The letter urged them to "demonstrate their faith in and respect for younger citizens by working to ensure that 16 and 17 year-olds are no longer unnecessarily denied a stake in their democracy". Louise King, of the Children's Rights Alliance, said: "At 16 and 17, young people's lives are as rich and varied as at any other age. " - BBC

Libs Gung Ho In Leeds

"He was very confident of picking up votes from Labour from the large student and academics' vote over top-up fees and Iraq. He also said the Conservative organisation was weak in the seat. As I left Headingly I passed tables piled with 'blue ink letters', an end-of-campaign appeal from the candidate in the style of a personalised letter. I sense a Lib Dem gain." - Times Election Blog.

UK Election Iraq Tremors Felt In Washington

"Thus the cooking of the books to justify the Iraq war was known at the time, not just in Washington but in London as well. Claims that the intelligence reporting on Iraq-both CIA and British-were simple errors of interpretation should be considered settled. And as for Bush's purposefulness in attacking Iraq, a Joint Chiefs of Staff "lessons learned" study from the war shows that the president signed a national security directive to finalize plans and deploy for the invasion at the end of June. All this happened before any of the diplomatic activity that the Bush administration represented as its main course of action." - John Prados,

Postal Vote Fraud: Bradford Conservative Arrested

"Second held in vote fraud inquiry. Detectives investigating allegations of election fraud in Bradford have arrested a second man. The 51-year-old is being held by police as part of an inquiry launched last week following claims made against Conservative councillor Jamshed Khan. A newspaper alleged that 13 people had applied for a postal vote at his Bradford home. A 38-year-old man arrested on Tuesday has been released on bail pending further inquiries, a spokesman said." - BBC

Top Tories Ready To Replace Howard

"Recriminations over Mr Howard's election strategy are intensifying as the campaign enters the home straight.

While the Tories give Mr Howard credit for the professionalism of the campaign and for turning the party into a fighting machine again, they accuse him of waging a battle too narrowly focused on core voters' concerns about issues such as immigration.

"The tactics are good but the strategy is uncertain," one senior Conservative said. Another accused Mr Howard of failing to come up with an overall vision, and for mounting a "Victor Meldrew-style campaign" that was too negative and too focused on the Tory leader himself, at the expense of his senior colleagues.

One Conservative candidate who would seek to stand in a leadership election, said: "This is the most sour, repellent, uninspiring campaign I have known."

Dissatisfaction with the message endorsed by Mr Howard, and the party's standing in the polls has formed the backdrop for the Tory leader's rivals to start jockeying for position." - FT

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Islington Greens Target Undecided Voters

Islington South and Finsbury Green Party candidate James Humphreys has written and printed this leaflet specifically aimed at the mass of undecided voters. - Five exclusive.

Labour Lead Fragile In Marginals

"Labour's claim to be at greater risk in its key battleground seats than the national opinion polls suggest is true, according to a Guardian/ICM marginals survey today.

As all three main parties manoeuvre for last minute advantage 48 hours from polling day, ICM's campaign polls data shows that Labour's vote share in 108 key seats where it faces a strong Tory challenge is down from 47% in 2001 to 41%.

The Tories have maintained their share of the vote at around 36%, suggesting their strategy of focusing money and personnel on re-winning lost marginals may inflict damage deep within Labour's post-1997 comfort zone." - Guardian.

Tories: Just An English Party

"On May 5 the British people will be electing 646 MPs. Of these, 529 will represent English seats. Of the 117 non-English seats, on current projections the Tories will be doing well to win 10 – that is well under 10%. Or, to look at it another way, given the desperate weakness of the Tories in Scotland and Wales, they will have to win more than 60% of the seats in England if they are to have any chance of gaining power in a UK election. That is a very stark disparity: 60%-plus in England, 10% or less in Scotland and Wales." - The Herald via Gareth, Campaign for an English Parliament.

One-Third Of Voters May Yet Change Their Mind

According to Mori's final poll for the FT, Labour has a 39 per cent share of the vote among those absolutely certain to cast a ballot on Thursday, 10 points ahead of the Conservatives, with Britain's third party - the Liberal Democrats - on 22 per cent. If this were replicated on polling day, Labour would have a majority in the House of Commons of 146 seats, assuming a national uniform swing, slightly down on the current margin.

Labour's 10-point lead marks a big increase on the lead of just two points which the party enjoyed in Mori's last survey for the FT published six days ago.

The huge increase in the lead could be the result of a highly aggressive stance which the Tories adopted against Tony Blair, the prime minister, in the middle of last week. Some Conservatives last night suggested that the tactic by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, of branding Mr Blair a "liar" over the Iraq war had backfired badly. - FT

Monday, May 02, 2005

UK Election Just Not Cricket

Michael Howard may be lagging in the polls, but he has kicked off a plethora of football analogies after his comments on ITV on April 25th about the beautiful game.

BBC: "The election campaign is "going to penalties" and will be a "very close" result, says Tory co-chairman Liam Fox. In a reference to Michael Howard saying it was possible to come back from 2-0 at half time, Dr Fox said the Tories had the best team and the best captain."

News of the World: "The Tories are a Coca-Cola Championship team. Labour aren't Champions League material. But they do play in the Premiership. Tony Blair's squad are on balance, the best team to be given the chance to take this great country forward."

Sunday Express: "The Tories offer Britain a way back to reality, back to truth and honesty in British politics. Michael Howard may be the underdog, two-nil down at half-time, but there is all to play for."

With Blair on a sticky wicket over Iraq, does nobody realise the cricket season has started?

Thorpe Blasts Blair And Howard Over Iraq

Jeremy Thorpe, Liberal leader from 1967 to 1979, has angrily criticised both Blair and Howard over Iraq. "In agreement, like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Mr Blair and Mr Howard have jettisoned the argument of the existence of weapons of mass destruction as the justification of going to war with Iraq. Both have conceded that even if they had known that the intelligence report was inadequate they would still have taken military action. The political outcome has been disastrous. Every Labour and Tory candidate should be asked to vote against any use of force unless authorised by a United Nations resolution or where the security of the UK is threatened or where British citizens are at risk on foreign soil.

"The Liberal Democrats subscribe to the... considerations. Labour and Tory candidates should be challenged to do likewise." Mr Thorpe, who will be in Devon for the closing stages of the campaign, said he believed Labour support was "haemorrhaging" and that the Tories had made "no impact" on voters. - BBC

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Foot, 92, Takes On BNP

"Foot arrived in the High Street, on what was his 70th anniversary of joining the Labour party, pushing a Zimmer frame that doubled as a seat. When supporters came up to meet him he took his glasses off and tipped his head to one side to listen. At 92 years old he was as articulate as ever. Looking at literature from the BNP that had been circulated locally, he said. 'They are a disgrace to this country. We had a similar problem with Mosley in the East End. They came in and tried to steam up hatred on racial grounds. Labour led the opposition to Mosley then, and they will do it today with the BNP. People have to vote Labour to stop this.' " - Observer

Margaret Hodge has a real political fight with the BNP in Barking.

Blair : Iraq Is Hurting Labour

BBC picture of PM not smiling
"Tony Blair, in the Observer, said he could still lose the election, and that he did not know whether the issue of Iraq might damage him in the vote. He said: "The fact that a week out from the election campaign, when the Tory campaign has collapsed, you have got Michael Howard calling me a liar over a war he urged me to undertake - I think people see through that. "The question is whether some of the mud sticks. The honest answer is, I don't know." - BBC / Observer.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Five Podcast 7

Interview with Melanie McLean, Conservative Party candidate for Islington South and Finsbury.

Five Podcast 6

Chat with Dave Bones from MalungTV News and Socialist Wanker about UK Politics, Blair, Howard, Galloway, and the future of Independent Media.

Smoking Gun Found

"The Earth is absorbing more energy from the Sun than it is giving back into space, according to a new study by climate scientists in the US. They base their findings on computer models of climate, and on measurements of temperature in the oceans. The group describes its results as "the smoking gun that we were looking for", removing any doubt that human activities are warming the planet." - BBC.

Wonder what this news will do for the Greens.

Xenophobia Loses Conservative Votes

"I can understand xenophobia, but from the son of an immigrant who fled oppression in his home country? Come on. That alone eliminates any possibility that the Conservatives will get my vote next week." - Eamonn Sullivan, London

Parties Seeking Watford Women

"The three main parties will be battling for women's votes at the forthcoming election. Opinion polls show that older women are amongst the most likely section of the population to vote, but are more fickle than men of a similar age. Those who voted Labour in 1997 and 2001 are far less certain to do so now. By contrast, young women tend to be far more disillusioned with party politics and need persuading that it's worthwhile voting at all." - BBC Radio 4 analyses Watford (audio)

Brown: MPs Should Decide Future War

"Gordon Brown has said he believes that MPs should be allowed to decide whether Britain goes to war in the future. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the Chancellor said the precedent set in 2003 - which allowed Parliament to vote before the Iraq war - should remain in place." - BBC

Labour Maintain Lead But Fear Losses

Average standing in the last 10 opinion polls - source UK Polling report.

Paddy Power are already paying out on straight "Labour to Win" bets, and yet Labour are fearing for "Blaenau Gwent... the safest Labour seat in Wales, the fifth-safest in the UK and.. the political base of Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot" - FT

Friday, April 29, 2005

Howard Blair And People-Smuggling

"as for people-smugglers what is it that howard is sniffing because it is sure powerful stuff. people smuggling isn't occurring because it is easy to get into the uk, it's happening because people are making lots of money out of some poor wretches who want to have a better life for themselves. making it harder for legitimate immigrants or asylum seekers to enter the uk is not going to worry the gangs who operate people smuggling rings, it is going to encourage them. they are going to be making more money out of the misery of others. but it will be ok because the official statistics will be down and howard and blair can say - look what we did." - Pat, London - iampat

Iraq: The Economic Cost

"Mr. Blair would like the debate to get back to what he insists the electorate really care about: the economy, education, the NHS, etc. So in this vein let's also examine the Iraq War." - NA, Cambridge - The Watcher

Smart Voters Strike Tactical Deals

"There are thousands more like Allison - strangers in constituencies across the country meeting online and trusting each other to vote on their behalf. Think of them as the electorate's avant-garde: a network of smart voters striking deals across tactical voting networks with the aim of circumventing the UK's venerable voting system that has rendered their votes irrelevant in previous general elections. - The Guardian." - Complete Lack of Surprise.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

This Election's Very Tight Indeed

Tony Blair, BBC London News.

Five Podcast 5

Interview with Andy "The Hat" Gardener, Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate for Islington South and Finsbury.

Cook: Don't Desert Labour Over War

"Cook talked long and entertained. He blended facts and anecdotes, wisdom, humility and twinkling wit, in an effortless, masterly way. I listened, and yet he still failed to convince me. I may have resigned from the government, but I will go to my grave clutching my Labour membership, he said. Of course you will Robin. The party is the only one that will work for single mothers and young unemployed. Probably correct. Vote for Emily, she is in the great tradition of independent lefties. Yes, she may be, that remains to be seen. I was impressed, pleased to be there, but not won over." - Blog of Funk

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Five Podcast 4

Robin Cook, Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry. Public meeting: Why Islington residents who opposed the Iraq war should vote Labour. 43MB Video.

Galloway: "Go And Take Drugs"

"I asked Galloway how many Muslims had been murdered by his friend Aziz. The correct answer: even more than have been slaughtered by Ariel Sharon, or by Israel in 38 years of occupying Gaza and the West Bank. Galloway said, "Why don't you go and take some more drugs, you druggie?" - Dave Bones, MalungTVNews

Murdoch To Buy Google

"With this type of agenda, if Murdoch was to buy half of Google, I don't have a doubt in my mind that the future of opinion and news feed blogs would be in question. Possibly pulled offline... (FBI apparently seized Independent Medi Centre servers in the UK without explanation) Murdoch has the ability and potential to do the same... and lie about it too... Good Lord the power these media corporations have over the world is terrifying!!" - tRiSh, Sydney, Australia.

Did Blair Admit Kelly Lie To Paxman?

"Blair's admission to Paxman regarding David Kelly "I don't believe we had any option but to disclose his name". Guido was a bit slow and missed the point (sorry Ron), but further reflection suggests it is was significant. In January 2004, Peter Oborne wrote a Spectator cover story calling Blair a liar and charging that he chaired the meeting where it was decided to reveal David Kelly's name, which led to his suicide. Al Campbell's diaries also shed some light on the matter. The spin counter attack was fierce, Oborne was ferociously rubbished by Blairites, in retrospect the critical paragraph of Oborne's piece appears verified by Blair himself." - Guido Fawkes,

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

BNP Unplugged

"Nick Griffin will be falling to his knees in a 'Vegas-Years' rhinestone-studded Elvis tutu and cape, in clubs and bars around the area. The streets of Keighley are littered with large Y-fronts discarded in a transport of passion inspired by the swivel-eyed scion of British Nationalism." - Indymedia report the BNP's use of audio CD in election.

Sedgemore Promises Post-Election Labour Defections

"The defection of Brian Sedgemore, who is standing down after 27 years as a Labour MP, threatens to upset Mr Blair's apparently unstoppable campaign for a historic third term.

Declaring that "enough is enough", Mr Sedgemore also reveals that a small group of unnamed fellow MPs who are standing down are secretly planning to leave the Labour Party in protest at Mr Blair's leadership after the election." - Mirocat, Yowling from the Fencepost

Conservative Tax Policies Only Benefit Wealthy

"Also once again they’re dragging out their tired, completely threadbare and discredited promise for lower taxes. By which they always, but always, mean lower taxes only for their wealthier supporters, which in the end always involves sneakily clawing back this new shortfall from the poorer individuals and families in both indirect (VAT) and direct taxes, whilst at the same time cutting all the public services these people have to rely on." - Groc tells it as he sees it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Voter Vault and Mosaic

"Politicians are cold-blooded voting machines - if you ignore them, they will ignore you"

In "Why Politicians Can't Tell the Truth" - Dispatches reporter Peter Oborne went beneath the surface of the election campaign to look at the state of British democracy - and argued that in 2005 we are witnessing the first fully-fledged anti-democratic General Election. The program showed how politicians use voting software like Voter Vault and Mosaic to develop policies which appeal to voters in key marginals - Channel 4.

Mental Health A Serious Issue: Monster Raving Loony

On a day when 2 leading mental health charities warn that "tens of thousands of UK mental health patients are being denied access to the care they need" in an exclusive interview, Andy "The Hat" Gardener of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, candidate for Islington South and Finsbury revealed his genuine concern for mental health. Screaming Lord Sutch, like Winston Churchill, suffered from depression, he noted, which contributed to the founder's untimely death in 1999.

Although many of their policies are ridiculous, Sutch first stood in 1963 on a platform which included lowering the voting to age to 18 (it was then 21). This year the party is contesting over 50 seats, including Tony Blair's Sedgefield, and their manifesto includes: lowering voting age to 16, the introduction of the 99 pence coin, and pram lanes in every shopping centre.

Gardener confidently expects the Monster Raving Loony vote to be up on 2001.

Countries containing members of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Channel Is, Eire, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Canada, United States of America, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mongolia.

Cook, Corbyn To Meet Islington Anti-War Voters

An invitation:

Why Islington residents
who opposed the Iraq war
should vote Labour

Public meeting
Rt Hon. Robin Cook,
Emily Thornberry (Labour
Parliamentary Candidate)
and Jeremy Corbyn

Italian Trade Union Centre
124 Canonbury Road (nr Highbury Corner)
5.30pm Tuesday 26 April

Post-Election Economic Slowdown

"There are already signs that both consumers and businesses sense this bulging deficit hanging over their heads and are preparing themselves for a post-election slowdown, made worse by tax rises. Sales of new cars to private individuals are at their lowest for more than a decade.

A survey of house prices from Hometrack, published this morning, shows another drop. Retail sales fell in March. Job vacancies are down. Unemployment has crept up for three months in a row. And inflation - though still low by historical standards - is at a seven-year high. The economy may be slowing, but the Bank of England has a legal duty to control inflation and another interest rate rise after the election is a near certainty." - George Trefgarne, Daily Telegraph, argues that whoever wins, the shit will hit the fan.

Franz Ferdinand Provide Music For Green Ears

"Internationally renowned, and top Scottish band, Franz Ferdinand have provided music for the Green Party Election Broadcast for the UK election. The broadcast, to be screened on all channels on 28th April across the UK, has been directed by Alex Cox, well-known Director of Repo Man and presenter of the BBC series Moviedrome.

Scottish Green Co-convener Robin Harper MSP said: "I am delighted that both Franz Ferdinand and Alex Cox have helped us produce our election broadcast. For young and old, our message is simple - if you want action for people, for the planet and for peace - vote Green. If you don't vote for what you believe in, you're never going to get it. Why settle for the best of a bad bunch when you can vote Green instead?" - Scottish Green Party.

Blair On Rack Over Iraq

Attempting to capitalise on widespread voter disenchantment over the Iraq war, both the LibDems and Conservatives are putting pressure on Tony Blair. The Liberal Democrat Party placed advertisements in several newspapers showing a smiling Blair beside President Bush under the headline "Never Again."

"Britain's international reputation has been damaged by the way Tony Blair took us to war," the party's leader, Charles Kennedy, will say in a speech on Monday. "I call again today for a proper inquiry into how we went to war in Iraq."

Michael Howard said Blair had overstated the "sporadic and patchy" intelligence gathered by Britain's intelligence services on whether Iraq had banned weapons. "He has told lies to win elections," Howard told BBC television. "On the one thing on which he has taken a stand in the eight years he has been prime minister, which is taking us to war, he didn't even tell the truth on that." Blair has repeatedly defended his decision to support Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq and has denied hyping the threat posed by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. - Reuters, via Yahoo.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Tory Advisor Crosby's Tactics Under Scrutiny

Crosby, a father of two in his late 40s who stays behind the scenes, is regarded as a master of modern techniques such as wedge politics - pushing issues which make your opponent seem out of touch with ordinary voters while you are on their side. "He is able to crystallise a complicated message into a form which communicates to the masses," Grahame Morris, a former chief of staff to John Howard, said. "Dog-whistle" tactics are another speciality - sending a message on a sensitive issue without stating it explicitly.

"The ultimate wedge in British politics was played out from 1994. The Labour Party has wedged the Conservatives for 10 years," said David O'Reilly, a research associate at the Menzies Centre for Australian studies at King's College, London.

"Are the times going to suit Michael Howard the way they suited John Howard? I suspect not." - Reuters

More Lies, Death and Destruction Please

"If these polls are a true indication of voting intentions it appears the UK population wants more of the same and will vote for five more years of the Blair dictatorship on 5th May. And this, despite recent publicity of vote rigging by Labour councillors.
Perhaps the Labour government will take a leaf out of the Bush Reich's book. If you can't win an election against the "straw man" opposition, rig the voting." - Uplink - A Link To The Future

I Dream Of Tony

"Tony Blair was on the Holloway Road, greeting me with a warm handshake. It was windy and sunny, fresh but shirtsleeve weather. The image was definitely conjured up from having met the rosetta-bearing Green Party candidate in the park near there the previous day.

Immediately I asked him "Tony, how do you pronounce your wife's name?"

As we strode down the rode together towards Highbury Corner, he answered me out of the side of his mouth, stressing the 2nd syllable. "Cherie"

Funny thing to do, I thought, talk out of the side of the mouth, like a cowboy, discretely." - Blog of Funk

Hired Hecklers Harrass Howard

"The BBC hired hecklers to attend events of the Conservative Party, and made sure to film them. This is something that, in my view, rises to the level of airing noticeably fake memos to try to take down a sitting president." - ReapolitiKLR, Motopolitico

"Tory fury as BBC sends hecklers to bait Howard - The Tories have made an official protest after the hecklers, who were given the microphones by producers, were caught at a party event in the North West last week. Guy Black, the party's head of communications, wrote in a letter to Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news, that the hecklers began shouting slogans that were "distracting and clearly hostile to the Conservative Party" - Patrick Hennessy, Political Editor Daily Telegraph

Politicians' Uniquely Simple Personalities

"Unlike the five dimensions of personality which are normally used, people judge politicians on only two dimensions: How trustworthy are they? How energetic are they?

This neatly explains why politicians spend the run-up to elections rushing around trying to be honest with ordinary people. It's a simple as that.

I do hope Tony's notoriously dicky heart can keep up with the pace. Faster Tony! Faster!" - Psyblog / Guardian

Environment Being Ignored - Greenpeace, F.O.E., Royal Society

"Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said while Labour and the Conservatives had agreed that climate change was one of the biggest environmental threats, "neither party has put any effort into raising the issue during the election" - BBC.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

LibDems Focus On Woolly Voters

"Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy... visited a farm in his Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency where he predicted turnout on 5 May would be up compared with 2001." - BBC News

The War Issue Surfaces

"'s clear that unlike their American counterparts, British politicians can't help but talk to issues. The problem is that no issue (or set of issues) seems to have sparked interest in the campaign or moved the polls as yet. But this all might change over the next week or so as the seemingly suppressed issue of the Blair government's decision to go to war in Iraq slowly percolates to the surface." - Mel Dubnick, Accountability Bloke

Why And How British Muslims Should Vote

"Voting tactically on 05 May will not immediately change the world but, if successful, at least it will punish the likes of Jack Straw and Oona King who stab the Muslim community in the back whilst showing it a smiling face." - Nooras Thoughts, London, United Kingdom.

61% Say Blair Too Close To Bush

ICM/Observer Poll due out tomorrow shows how damaging Iraq is proving for Tony Blair and Labour. Attorney General is reported to have said on March 6th that 2nd UN resolution was needed for war to be legal - Channel 4 News.

UK Architects Desert Conservatives

"The Pugin Room in the House of Commons is dirty. Not in a physical sense. The tablecloths are spotless. The curtains are probably taken down daily and pressed. But there’s something unclean about the feeling of power, of politicians helping themselves to champagne, of them lounging back in their seats and patronising their guests as they keep an eye out for their next appointment.

A new survey of architects’ voting preferences – there are some 30,000 registered in the UK – commissioned by The Architects’ Journal (see table), sees the Tories haemorrhaging support by the second. In response to this news, Hayes hardly exudes humility and respect for the profession. ‘It may be that many feel they can’t rise to the challenge in the face of the Conservative determination to create a built environment that enchants and inspires,’ he says." - Rob Sharp, Setting Fire

Tory Advisor Crosby Prepares Final Week Trick

Ever since Lynton Crosby was appointed as Tory Campaign chief last October I have been intrigued by the possibility that he could play a final week tactic that worked to bring John Howard to power in the 1996 Australian General Election... It would not take too many Labour waverers to stay at home on May 5th for this approach to work. Unlike 2001 when Tony Blair went into the final week with ICM showing a Labour lead of 19% and Mori a margin of 23% things are much much closer this time." - Mike Smithson, Political Betting

The Unfair Electoral System

The Crazy One examines and criticises UK voting procedures.

UK Inflation Up, Growth Down

Mixed news on the UK economy in the lead up to polling day. "GDP figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), brings the UK's annual growth rate to 2.8%, the lowest estimate since the last quarter of 2003. Earlier this week, ONS statistics showed that the annual rate of UK inflation increased to a greater-than-expected 1.9% in March, its highest level for nearly seven years." - BBC

UK Election Images On Internet

Bookmark this page...

I Will Lose, Says Islington Green

James Humphreys, the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Islington South and Finsbury conceded personal defeat this afternoon - "I must be honest, I'm not going to win" - but he confidently predicted the first green MP in Brighton in two weeks time. Humphreys said that Bridget Fox in Islington would have to get a "big bandwagon going" to overturn a 13% majority and win the seat. "I haven't seen Liberals bouncing up to me in the street saying vote for me... they will fade later in the campaign. I think Labour will win here. I teach politics, and that's what I'd tell my students."

A Lecturer at Kingston University , Humphreys used to work at number 10, and is the first ever Green Party candidate for the constituency. He backed Labour candidate Emily Thornberry to replace Chris Smith as MP.

Audio interview.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bloggers Against Voter Apathy

"there may be many reasons to think why your vote may not make a difference...a hung parliament would create a great talkshop in Westminster, but do little to set implementable national and foreign policies..." - Pip, Wiltshire - Banana Blogging

More To Multiculturalism Than Curry

"Ahmed Kumar (no relation to The Kumar’s at No.42) of Asian Rub-A-Dub, the minority news weekly said;

“For fuck sake, there’s more to multiculturalism than curry, and the Kumar’s aren’t even real people.”

The Tory Party have declined to comment today on The Labour Party campaign, although a source close to Mr Howard has been reported as saying that Mr Howard was delighted with Labour's poster." - Herge Smith, Angry Chimp

Racist Scumbags: The View From Romania

"Frankly, the disgraceful nature of their campaign would reach its logical conclusion with our very own Cristalnacht. It’s difficult to imagine that a party once led by Margaret Thatcher could actually get any worse, but it seems to be the case." -Andy Hockley, Csikszereda musings - reflects on immigration as an electoral strategy.

Are You Racist?

A "five-minute online test (see Internet links, right), devised by American academics and newly launched in Britain, promises to strip away the veneer of respectability many people hold on to, and plunder the prejudices we harbour in the unconscious. The result - a truer picture of one's attitudes." - BBC

Brian Eno: "Vote Ambient"

Musician, producer and artist Brian Eno, inventor of ambient music, composer of the Windows start-up sound, has urged UK citizens to vote LibDem via "an open letter" at his website LibDem This Time.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Council Tax "Squirming" By Labour

"A lot of people have had their say on the local council tax, and I have to say, I am astounded by the selfishness of a lot of people. You would think that every other person apart from them is a scrounger and a parasite, well let me tell you, what on earth happened to the greater good, and paying for the services that are needed. People have in the past 20 years become extremely narrow minded, way too self self self." - Speakers Corner, London.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Party of Liberation, Comes To UK

"Banned in Germany and across the Middle East, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Party of Liberation, is one of the most controversial - and also the strongest - Islamic groups in Britain today. Hizb rejects the "corrupt society" of Britain and the West and, as George Galloway learned last night, even the most impeccable anti-war credentials are not enough to win its approval. Its central belief is for a single Islamic state - a caliphate - which should start by uniting all Muslim countries, then embrace the entire world, including non-Islamic parts. As Hizb's own website says: Hizb "aims to bring back the Islamic guidance for mankind and to lead the Ummah (the Muslim community) into a struggle with Kufr (non-believing), its systems and its thoughts so that Islam encapsulates the world." - Lightningbaron

Orkney and Shetland

"Two hours by boat to get a vote There is a row over postal voting, but for those in far-flung parts of the UK casting your ballot in person is no mean feat.

Orkney and Shetland is the most northerly constituency in the UK, Norway is nearer than westminsterorganising the election there is costly, difficult" - Lizzy

Islington Residents Download Political Podcasts

Blimey! Server is getting hot. I can't believe its all party faithfuls, looking at the logs. Some Americans. There's interesting debating threads running at So Who Do We Vote For?

Skymarket, my kind ISP, has agreed to sponsor Five with bandwidth. I will add a lovely logo soon.

A Muffin By Any Other Name

On the stump with Emily Thornberry, Labour candidate for Islington South and Finsbury.

Police Chief Blair Criticised On ID Cards

"Speaking about Sir Ian Blair’s recent comments about ID cards, Conservative chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority Richard Barnes told the BBC: 'I am aware that he issued a press statement yesterday to explain that he was only restating a position that he had earlier, but I think it is highly inappropriate during a general election that a senior police officer should make a political comment.' " - NO2ID Newsblog.

Gordon Brown "Grotesque Homunculus"

"Tony Blair's stint at the pinnacle of British political life is drawing to a close. Barring an act of God, his successor will be Gordon Brown, the Chief Thief, the man who is single-handedly responsible for the UK's slide from growth and fiscal probity into tax-and-spend Euro-style disaster." - Daily Pundit

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict Backs Greens

"His Holiness expects politicians to make ecology a "holy priority" says Vatican" - Zarathustra, Italy.

Spoli Your Vote

With the recent online vote-selling scandal and the local Birmingham postal voting scandal, famously denounced as "Banana Republic" by a High Court Judge, electoral checks are being hastily arranged everywhere in the UK, the question on democratic minds is, could the British election go the way of the American, with lost votes, ballot rigging, recounts, and the outcome bitterly contended?

Nobody is suggesting that the Birmingham case is endemic. But electoral corruption has added to distrust in the democratic process during a time of record voter apathy, especially among the young, and this cannot be good for Labour in two weeks, or UK Democracy in the longer term.

Spoil Your Vote is an attempt to at least get people to the booths, if only to say, I wish I hadn't bothered.

"Spoil Your Vote is an idea whose time has come. Its aim is simple:

At the 2005 General election, we want all those people who think their votes don't count to get out and spoil their votes

A mass movement of spoiled votes will broadcast a new message: the choices on offer are just not good enough. We demand something better - a different way of doing things.

Your spoiled vote will be counted, by law, along with the votes for candidates."

Blogs, Podcasting Play Role In UK Election

Broadband, internet, cameraphones, blogging: the UK runs its first e-election.

BBC To Massively Expand Podcasting - "The BBC will podcast up to 20 more radio shows – including sections of the Today programme and selected Radio 1 speech content - as it extends its download trial." - Tod Maffin's - via Podcatch.

The London Evening Standard is printing excerpts from "Blog of the Day" in the election pages. In Bloggers4Labour, carefully managed RSS news feeds deliver a multitude of reports and comment on the political contest.

The BBC suffered under the last Labour administration, losing their top man in a row about a news journalist's comments on Iraq. The BBC website is the most popular in Europe, and they are hugely influential. With Labour taking on Zack Exley, the man famous for cybersquatting GWBUSH.COM, both political parties and the media in the UK are engaging the mouse clicking public in a way not seen before.

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

NME Readers Want Chris Martin PM

"Tory Anne Widdecombe once said Michael Howard had 'something of the night' about him. And, according to readers of music magazine NME, there may be something of the truth in her remark... Readers said they would vote for a Lib Dem government with Coldplay's Chris Martin as Prime Minister. U2 frontman Bono, Morrissey and Radiohead's Thom Yorke were other contenders for the top job." - ThisisLondon.

The newly-formed Chris Martin Party have adopted the colour yellow and intend to stand at the next electoral opportunity - Blaggernews.

BBC To Massively Expand Podcasting

"The BBC will podcast up to 20 more radio shows – including sections of the Today programme and selected Radio 1 speech content - as it extends its download trial." - Tod Maffin's - via Podcatch.

The London Evening Standard is printing excerpts from "Blog of the Day" in the election pages.

Interview With Bridget Fox, LibDem Candidate for Islington South and Finsbury

Next: James Humphreys, Green Party candidate, and Conservative Melanie McLean.

Subscribe to the Five audio feed:

UK Government's E-Strategy Based On ID Card Database

"New developments show that the ID Card has become integral to the success of the Government's e-strategy.

Information published by Government Departments since February shows that the database which underpins the ID Card is central to the Government's aim to deliver efficient and effective public services in general. This purpose, which is far wider than the narrow objective of establishing identity in order to access public services, has not been mentioned so far in the current General Election campaign. For example, the Labour Party Manifesto refers to ID Cards in the context of immigration, identity theft, illegal working, fraudulent use of public services and terrorism.

Also absent from the General Election debate is any commitment concerning the wider use of the database of registrable facts which will support the ID Card. It is this database, which will contain up to 50 classes of personal information held on each individual, which has alarmed the Parliamentary Committees dealing with the Constitution and Human Rights.

Concern was also expressed about an ID Card database which would contain a snapshot of an individual's lifestyle because it would contain records of all service providers who use the Card to verify identity (e.g. which out-patient clinic was visited by the ID Card holder; which bank has opened an account for the ID Card holder).

Details of an ID Card Gateway Review, published on the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) website as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request last month, reveals that the wider "public service" use of the ID Card database has been an objective of Government for two years." - Pinsent Masons.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

UK Politics For Beginners

We are only 2 months from midsummer - the sun is hot, the blossom is filling the streets with sweet scents. Still it's raining as well and I'm using shades underneath black and white clouds to kill the glare from the roads.

For some reason I have decided to meet the people.

The people I have decided to meet are my local parliamentary candidates, a full list of which will be available in an hour or two. These guys want my vote. I want to address my political disengagement. It's a marriage made in Islington.

Over at the Blog of Funk, I responded to a request. I said I would give Auslanders my Inlander's view on UK Politics. Here it is. Take a deep breath, here goes:

UK Democracy relies on an old-fashioned first-past-the-post electoral system, with 646 elected Members of Parliament in Westminster serving local areas called constituencies. These constituencies divide (for example) the east side of Holloway Road from the west. Being on the west, my patch is Islington South and Finsbury. It's roughly half of the London Borough of Islington. In the countryside, the geographic areas are much bigger, representing the population concentration differential.

Elected MPs sit in the House of Commons, the main debating chamber. Actually, when it's full, they fight for a seat. Too many bums. If you ever hear the phrase, "sitting in Westminster' it normally means, in Parliament.

Each party gets to elect its leader however and whenever it chooses. We don't have a Presidential system here. You vote for the party. Having said that, the would-be national leader gets the same scrutiny as anyone in their position. Or not, depending on the football and Coronation Street.

We have a second chamber which has recently been reformed, the House of Lords. It's a revising chamber, and can and does throw back badly formed laws to the "lower" chamber for further work. It is also the site of the highest court in the land, home of the Law Lords, the people who effectively determine and ratify the "unwritten" constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

The UK is a United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all have their own assemblies with local Parties like Sinn Fein, Scottish and Welsh Nationalist, as well as the main UK Westminster Parliamentary parties. Suffice to say that even with devolution, and with parties fielding candidates for the European Parliament as well, being elected as a constiuency MP to Westminster still represents being at the heart of British political power. In the EU, Britain retains more sovereignty than many other EU members, not the least being its own currency.

So a national election - called a general election - is for Westminster. Whichever party wins the most seats, normally gets to govern. Coalitions are rare in UK politics.

There are 3 main parties and thus contenders for Prime Minister. Tony Blair (Labour) Michael Howard (Conservative) and Charles Kennedy (Liberal Democrat). Labour have been in power for 8 years. The Conservatives were in power 18 years prior to that. This election is not expected to be the walk-over the last two were, however. At the moment Labour have 40%, Conservatives 31% and LibDems 21%.

Labour have run a fairly tight ship, but our smiling Prime Minister lied about the Iraq war, and this played very badly for him both with his core vote and in the nation at large. So with the wear and tear Blair has suffered from 8 years in the job, he is not the strong young contender he once was. The Iraq war has tarnished his once-golden image, and he is often accused of autocracy. The UK media have made much play of the feud between Blair and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK "Finance Secretary") Gordon Brown, Labour's number 2. Nonetheless the UK economy has been good under Labour, prices stable, inflation low, and whatever the criticisms of media spin and King Blair, they have been in general effective managers. Will disenchantment with Labour and Blair's public lies end King Tony's reign? Probably not, though there are doubts undermining Blair's grip on power. But there are also veiled reassurances, and heavyweight contenders for the role of National Leader waiting in the wings. Like Gordon Brown.

Michael Howard the Conservative leader was unpopular when he served as Home Secretary under Thatcher, and he has a sinister air about him that even loyal Conservatives such as Anne Widdecombe (left) have publicly mentioned, so his chances of getting in are slim. But, over a third of the UK identify with the right, and older voters tend to a. vote and b. vote conservative. With voter apathy (41% nationally don't bother), the fact he is the most effective fighter the Conservatives have had in 8 years, and with a protest vote against the war anticipated, Howard's chances are boosted. Howard must also be credited for stilling the dissent in the party and moving the contentious issue of Europe to page 27 of a 28 page manifesto. Still the chance of Conservative implosion is also there - if Howard's strategy fails, the Conservatives could see their vote diminish still further and be replaced by the Liberal Democrats as Her Majesty's Opposition.

Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats already present themselves as the real alternative but are hindered by the first-past-the-post voting system which in any other form of modern democracy would give them 21% of 646, far more representation than the few seats they usually have. Nonetheless the Liberals are a real presence in local government, and in Scotland where the voting system IS fairer, they play a key role. In many ways, the LibDems are further to the left than Labour, especially with regard to their stances on civil liberties, drug and tax reform, and as Labour support ebbs, they look to be doing well this time around. The LibDems are a spending party though and this is said to count against them. They state plainly that they will raise tax and the mantra is that no party since the war has been elected on a tax-raising platform. Generally speaking, LibDems take votes from Labour, not the Conservatives, so this is something else that worries the incumbents.

There are small parties around who are eroding the dominance of these three, the Green Party foremost among them, and independents make up a growing share of the vote. All this adds up to reduced power for Labour, if not an election defeat.

Chances are that a weakening economy will make voters cautious about handing power to politicians who have not had it for the best part of a decade, and it seems that Howard's mad-eyed and rather shrill scare-mongering about immigration is falling on deaf ears. But Blair is finding this election a much tougher prospect than the previous two, and 5th May 2005, a Labour MP's Westminster job is no longer quite such a secure one.

This was previously published here.
This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Polls Show Average 7% Labour Lead

Immigration is the "6th most important issue" with UK voters, survey says. - Times, BBC News.

Boris Johnson: "Carry On Toothbrushing"

When a man who was cleaning his caravan with a toothbrush said he wouldn't be voting Tory, Mr Johnson's reply was "Right-ho. Jolly good. Carry on toothbrushing."

As he departed, he said: "I think that went VERY well," before humming Is This The Way To Amarillo and doing some knee-bends.

On another doorstep, he said: "Hello, I'm your MP. Actually I'm not. I'm your candidate. Gosh." - BBC.

BJ is neighbour of mine, and is clearly the only man for the Henley job. Vote Boris.

Could Voter Apathy And Blair's War Lies Lose Labour UK Election?

Chris Smith - the gay saint of the Labour centre-left, is stepping down with dignity. Chris has been a great constituency MP, popular and hardworking, gifted with the intelligence to know when to speak and when to shut up. He led the Labour rebellion against the Iraq war.

If ever I meet an Iraqi who demands to know why our country sent an army to his country and killed 100,000 civilians, bombed and shot them, and tortured them in captivity, I can say, we tried, signed petitions, we emailed. I will say, we marched and marched again. Not all our leaders disregarded our opinions. I will show him Chris Smith's and Robin Cook's long and eloquent speeches. Words which cannot bring back the dead.

Let it not be forgotten, as his would-be replacement as Labour MP Emily Thornberry reminded me when I met her last Friday, that historically, opportunities for parties to VOTE on going to war in the UK are somewhat rare - as rare as a blog that doesn't ramble. As rare as an honest politician. As rare as Jeremy Paxman being polite.

Emily was giving some credit to the Labour administration for allowing the debate to happen in the first place. It was Robin Cook, leader of the house, she reminded me, who ensured that Parliament got the chance to debate Iraq, a man who also stepped down from government (but not Parliament) and who like Chris, still holds the respect of the people.

Emily was very clear about her own anti-war stance, and it would seem to be a sensible thing for a prospective Labour MP to align themselves with the anti-war movement, since many Labour voters are seriously searching their conscience on that basis right now. Their party took the nation into an illegal war, and Blair, the man who we had at least trusted not to blatantly lie, like the previous mendacious Conservative administration, coseyed up to Bush, and spoke on TV about

"Weapons of Mass Distraction"

He actually said on TV, "DISTRACTION". It wasn't like Major who had vowel problems, and could never say the letter "a" properly, so that WANT became WUNT. Blair inadvertently spoke the truth - we, the people of Britain, the population of the United States, and the entire United Nations, were being distracted, systematically lied to, with "honest" politicians like Blair and Colin Powell wheeled in to sell the lie of the weapons program, so that Bush could attack a weakened leader who happened to be sitting on the second largest oil reserves in the world. From that moment on, nobody in my manor thought that poodle Blair was anything other than redundant.

8 years ago, Tony Blair was swept in on a fairly radical agenda, on the back of Tory sleaze, corruption, economic failure, and arrogance. He has been in a broad sense far more popular leader than Thatcher ever was. He rode a wave of hope and took his power from the national longing for renewal.

More money for hospitals, schools, releasing capped funds local authorities couldn't spend, building new houses, investing in inner cities. Employment conditions improved - the minimum wage, and the Human Rights Act put us in moral harmony with the rest of Europe. Devolution of government, elected municipal Mayors, reform of Parliament and our antiquated two-tier system of goverment - however well or badly it has been done, for all this they get credit.

Blair it is often said, is conservative, but he isn't Conservative. His government isn't asset stripping, privatising, and crashing the economy like successive Tory administrations did for 18 years. We expect politicians to lie - Paxman on our behalf starts out with the assumption that ANY politician is a lying bastard. But not great big humiliating American lies, to back up a man who stole his country's election in the first place.

The question is, has Blair been weakened by this sufficiently to give Conservative leader Michael Howard a chance of reversing the decline of the right in the UK? UK Elect predict in four out of six scenarios a Labour win, and the polls all suggest that Labour is retaining a lead of between 3% and 9% over the Conservatives. But the chance of a shock is there.

In our 3 party system, the lines are being further blurred by a Liberal Democrat resurgence. Strongly anti-war, standing up more robustly for civil liberties than either Labour or Conservatives, and benefited by Charles Kennedy, a leader with a new baby, they could do really well.

It's not just the LibDems who stand to take votes from Labour. The Greens, and single-issue parties like UK Independence Party, and Respect, formed from the anti-war alliance, could unseat big party MPs. George Galloway, one-time friend of Saddam, kicked out of the Labour party for his corruscating attacks on the leadership, is taking on pro-war Labour MP Oona King in Tower Hamlets, an inner-city constituency with a large Muslim population, and there he has a real chance of winning.

In Islington South and Finsbury, the Conservatives are not in contention, and the race is between Labour's Emily Thornberry and the LibDem's Bridget Fox. Bridget herself admits that the next government is likely to be Labour, but also sees that this represents a real chance for her personally, now that Chris Smith is going.

Emily Thornberry's credentials are good on the war issue which is splitting the left, but she has a tough fight on her hands if she is to keep the seat for Labour. People in Islington South are likely to use the ballot box to let their feelings be known, and it may not be enough to point to the few honest men and women remaining in the Labour party ranks and to Gordon Brown, leader-in-waiting, curtailing his resentment for the cameras.

What result would a protest vote produce? The old accusation that Liberals split the left and let the right in by the back door Bridget Fox counters with her opinion that the right will continue to diminish. But Howard is a shrewd operator, no trick too nasty, and easy to underestimate. The Conservative Party may not be the power it once was but it knows how to win votes with the twin lures of greed and xenphobia, and is capitalising on the Blair disenchantment factor as effectively as the LibDems.

The Right runs election campaigns on fear, as the Left runs them on fantasy, and the 1997 fantasy was, Blair is honest, and he will not betray you. Blair did enjoy the trust of the nation until he blew it with the Iraq war. We cannot guess what pressures bore upon him as he decided to lie to the nation, and I am not making excuses for him here, but how easy it is now to mock his party's election slogan: FORWAR, NOT BACK.

I have witnessed voter apathy and antipathy at first hand on the doorstep, with people feeling they have a national choice which is none at all - The Warmonger, The Fascist, Or The One That Won't Get In? Come May 5th, many voters will give this one a miss, those that don't will register a protest, and the possiblity is that the reprimand slap that Labour gets from those consciencious progressive souls that do vote could just tip the balance of UK power in favour of the right.

This post is also available at Blogger News Network.

Nominations Close 1600 BST

Nominations for the country's 646 seats close at 1600 BST today. Well, what else were you going to do?

Meanwhile check out Jamie's Big Voice - an excellent blog.

Howard To Star In "Rivers Of Blood II"

From ITV1's Ask The Leaders programme:

The Tory leader said he feared there could be repeats of the 2001 riots in Burnley and Oldham unless people had confidence in controls on immigration. Mr Howard, who has put immigration at the heart of his election campaign, was asked by presenter Jonathan Dimbleby if he feared more race riots in Britain "if there are more newcomers than is desirable".

The Conservative leader said: "Yes. I think people have to have confidence in the system. They have to understand there is a proper system of controls and that gives people reassurance.

"And I think that when people believe that there is no proper system, that immigration is out of control, I think that these anxieties... make it more difficult to have good community relations."

Asian gap year student Dean Velani, 18, accused Mr Howard of "shambolic opportunism to pander to middle England".

"You are pandering to xenophobia and hatred in our country," he added.

BBC News.

Horrific London Fuckstick

"I don't want to put a fucking consultant in parliament! The Labour candidate seems better on a personal level, having gone to my old school and spent his whole life in my home town, Wellington, but Labour are absolutely anathema to me. I was tempted to vote Green, given my newfound affinity for the Australian Greens. However, although the Greens platform is pretty ok, if a little wackier and less polished than their Australian equivalents, they aren't standing a candidate in my locality due to funding issues. I wonder if I'll vote at all. Last time I didn't, but I was an anarchist back then, of course." - Mark G.E. Kelly examines the candidates (and his conscience) in Taunton Deane.

Labour Win Predicted In 4/6 Scenarios

"Findings like this frees up disgruntled voters, worried about a Tory government, to make their protest heard. This really does look like a 'no lose' situation for Labour, and their protestations seem to be because they want another (unhealthy) 3 figure majority." - Murky looks at the likely results.

Of course, if it looks like another comfortable win, loyal Labour voters are more likely to stay home, which could easily skew the results beyond these assessments by the BBC and UK Elect.

Monday, April 18, 2005

European Share Fall May Impact UK Election

"Stocks across Europe fell sharply on Monday after a number of negative factors accentuated the after-effects of Wall Street's Friday falls. The Dow Jones saw its heaviest one-day loss for two years on Friday, hit by surprise poor results from IBM. The decline knocked the technology sector across Europe, and was exacerbated by equally poor figures from Dutch electronics firm Philips. Germany's Dax ended down 2.6%, Paris' Cac by 2.1%, and the FTSE by 1.3%. Shares in Philips dropped 3.6% in early exchanges after it reported a 79% drop in first quarter profits, blaming weak semiconductor sales and the falling prices of flat panel televisions. Added to IBM's results coming in below market expectations last week, there is concern among investors that the sector could be seeing the beginning of a slump." - BBC News.

Just like Mr Chambio said.

Labour Bans Psilocybin Mushrooms

"What a bunch of New Labour kill-joys. Druids and pagans have harvested the naturally occurring, wild growing, psilocybin mushrooms for thousands of years in the British Isles for use in rituals. Imagine the outrage by Muslims if the Green party called for the outlawing of the Halal slaughtering of animals. Why is there so little outrage at the threat to jail 'shroomers?" - Guido Fawkes' Blog of plots, rumours & conspiracy

Howard Appears On Fawlty Banknote

Are you spending what I'm forging? - from the Michael Howard, MP Blog, allegedly.

Blair Suffers Protest Resignation

"Derek Cattell is quitting in protest at the Iraq war which he said had raised questions about Mr Blair's integrity. He will instead support Reg Keys, whose son was killed in Iraq and is standing against Mr Blair in Sedgefield." - BBC News.

Over 40% of Britons Want Dissolution of the United Kingdom

"So, let me get this right, only about 59%(?) of respondents, from throughout Britain, want Scotland to remain in the Union. It looks as though the English electorate are coming round to the same opinion as the SNP: the United Kingdom's constitution is a complete dog's breakfast, and it is rapidly becoming time to call the whole game a bogey. That does not sound like a very strong "attachment to the Union" to me" - Stuart Dickson, Independence

The Green Issue

- Independent Front Page, Monday 18th April 2005